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Milk Snake

Name Lampropeltis triangulum
Type Ground dwelling Snake, loves to hide but will climb
Where am I from? USA/Central America/Ecuador & North Venezuela
Handle-ability Good, fairly docile
Length/size up to 60 inches, slim snake
Suitable for follow on snake as can be nervous, but does not rend to bite
Life span Up to 20 years

Housing

Milk snakes housing can range from a simple set up with newspaper for substrate and cardboard box hides to an elaborate naturalistic setup in a vivarium. There are a few basics to get right though. The general rule of thumb is to give your milk snake a container/vivarium in which the length plus the width is about the same length as the snake. Hatchlings will do better in a smaller vivarium or plastic box to start with. A larger vivarium can be used, as long as plenty of hiding places are provided. At least one hide will be required at both the warm and the cool end of the vivarium, to allow your milk snake to thermo-regulate whilst feeling secure. One of the most popular substrates for milk snakes is Aspen, which looks good, allows the milk to burrow and is easily spot cleaned other substrates such as coconut chips, bark chips or aubiose can also be used.. Milk snakes can climb, if given the opportunity. Milk snakes have cannibalistic tendencies, so it’s best to house them singly.

Temperature

Milk snakes are best kept at daytime temperatures varying from 31 to 33 degrees centigrade at one end of the enclosure and 24 to 26 degrees centigrade at the other. A temperature drop of 5 or 6 degrees can be allowed at night. A thermal gradient like this can be achieved by placing a heat mat under only half of the enclosure, leaving the other half cool. Heat mats should be controlled by a thermostat to maintain correct temperatures. Always follow the instructions that come with your heating equipment as these can vary between manufacturer.

If you find that extra heat is needed a low wattage bulb fitted to the ceiling of the enclosure can be used to increase temperature. Bulbs used for heating or lighting your Milk Snakes vivarium that are above 15 watts should be covered with a bulb guard to protect your snake from burns.

Lighting

Milk snakes do not require any special lighting, or UVb light. Unless in a particularly dark room, most people keep their milks without lighting, but to allow better viewing lights can be used, and will be of no detriment to the snake, as long as they do not increase the ambient temperature too much. Any lights used should be guarded and on a thermostat.

Humidity

Milk snakes come from temperate North America, and so high temperatures are not required. The cool end of the viv can be room temperature, with a hot spot of 27-30C being adequate. This is best provided by a heat mat covering no more than a third to half of the enclosures floor space. Always make sure that heat mats are protected by a suitable thermostat to avoid burns to your snake. It is best to always check temperatures accurately with a digital thermometer.

Feeding

Milk snakes are strictly carnivorous, and in the wild eat rodents amphibians and other reptiles(including snakes). In captivity, they are usually fed whole mice of the appropriate size. Pinky mice are fed to hatchlings, and the size increased as the snake grows. A milk snake only requires feeding once every week on an item no bigger than 1.5 times the size of the widest part of the snake. It is not necessary to supplement the diet of a milk snake, but an occasional vitamin supplement such as Nutrobal may be administered by dipping the rump of the rodent in the supplement, and some keepers feel that this is beneficial.

Breeding

Milk snakes are fairly easy to breed. Introduce the female to the male in spring. Mating usually occurs fairly quickly. A few weeks later the female will lay a clutch of between 5 and 24 eggs in a moss filled hide put in especially for the purpose. The eggs are best incubated in the damp moss in which they were laid, at about 28C(84f). After a couple of months the baby milks will hatch from the eggs.

Buying Tips

Ask to handle the snake to gauge it's health and temperament. Baby milk snakes can be fast and occasionally nippy, and may also musk, but they grow out of this with regular handling. Look for clear skin which is taught and firm, and smooth scales, clear bright eyes, and no faecal staining around the vent. A healthy milk snake should move easily, have no clicking, wheeze or hiss when it breathes, and should not have a protruding spine.

Varieties

There are many pattern morphs of milk snakes some of which are stunningly beautiful. The most common include albino, tangerine and hypo.