Lifespan: Up to 20 years
Wild Diet: Carnivorous; will consume small rodents, eggs, birds, amphibians, lizards and other snakes, including venomous species.
Zoo Diet: Mice
Predators: Raccoons, foxes, skunks and coyotes
IUCN Status: Not Evaluated
Habitat/Range: Found throughout much of Northwest Mexico.
Characteristics: Small head, slender body; wide orange-red bands next to black then creamy yellowish white then black narrow bands (tricolor). Resembles NA coral snake. (Remember - red on yellow kills a fellow, red on black, OK Jack).
Behavior: Diurnal or crepuscular in the spring becoming nocturnal in summer. Secretive, rarely found in the open. Spend much of their time hiding beneath logs, rocks, boards, bark and other debris. When threatened coil into a tight ball or may vibrate tail and strike. It has a natural tolerance to many native snake venoms. A true constrictor. Powerful, throwing several loops of its muscular body around its prey. Coils do not crush, but merely exert enough pressure to prevent breathing. Prey soon suffocates and is then swallowed whole. Controls rodent populations.
Reproduction: Oviparous. Mate in the spring. Females have been known to mate with multiple males during a breeding period, just to make sure fertilization will occur. Can also store male's sperm for up to a year, if she has to wait that long for environmental conditions to be favorable. Lays 8 - 12 elliptical eggs in hollow log or sandy leaf covered, protected area. Eggs adherent to prevent being swallowed. Incubation: 28-39 days. Young 10 -12 inches at birth. Young are brightly colored, color dulls as maturity is reached. Snake mothers do no take care of the young, instead she leaves them at birth. Hatchlings use a special tooth to break through their shell when ready to hatch, but sometimes wait for days to actually come out of their shell. Mature 3-4 yrs.
Conservation: The milksnake is not listed by the IUCN, but in some areas, there may face significant pressure due to pet trade collection. Because this species' high value in the pet trade, many subspecies are now being bred in captivity for sale. If you are considering an exotic pet, such as a snake, be sure to purchase them from a trusted breeding source and not from someone who took them from the wild.