Milk Snake Vs Corn Snake

Milk Snake Vs Corn Snake: Differences Between Two Closely-Related Snakes!

Milk snakes and corn snakes share the same family of snakes and both are equally adorable. They are abundantly found in the wide range of tropical and alpine conditions of North America and are quite popular among American pet lovers. However, there are so many similarities in the way they look and behave, that it becomes quite difficult to tell them apart.

In this article milk snake vs corn snake, you will discover not only how these two snakes look like, but also where they live, what they eat, and how they behave in the wild! And also find out the lifestyle of their babies. And don’t you want to solve the mystery behind their interesting names– do they drink milk or munch on corn cobs, or what? Let’s jump right in!

Corn Snake vs Milk Snake: Similarities Will Make You Look Twice!

Corn snakes and milk snakes share a number of commonalities, the reason why it gets tricky to tell them apart. As a starter, they have similar colors and patterns on their body. Colors like red, orange or yellow are seen across corn snake and milk snake morphs and subspecies. They are also more or less of the same length and weight.

Both the snakes are harmless, non-venomous colubrids that subdue their prey by constriction. They do bite when perturbed or harassed, but their bites do not hurt beyond the pain of a scratch or a needle prick. Both the snakes have a docile temperament, the reason why they are incredibly popular as pets. They share similar dietary preferences and choice of habitats. Also both corn snakes and milk snakes are oviparous and hibernate in winter.

Milk Snake vs Corn Snake: Physical And Behavioral Differences

So, how do you actually tell them apart if they are so similar? You tell them apart with the help of nuances– the difference lies in the details. Let’s appreciate them more closely!

Which Snake Families Are Corn Snake And Milk Snake Coming From?

Milk snakes and corn snakes belong to the same family but different genera. 

Milk Snake Family and Name


Milk Snake: They belong to a large group of snake family called Colubridae. This family contains a genus of snakes called Lampropeltis, which includes kingsnakes that have more than 30 different species and subspecies, like California Kingsnake, Scarlet Kingsnake, Milk Snakes, and such. Therefore, milk snakes share plenty of common features with kingsnakes.

The scientific name of milk snakes is Lampropeltis triangulum, the latter being the species name. The names are in Greek and possess a profound meaning about the looks of the snakes. Lampropeltis come from two Greek words ‘Lampro’ and ‘Pelt’ which mean “bright shields”, and ‘Triangulum’ refers to the three-sided triangles. Altogether, the names point at the tri-colored bright crossbands that are actually scales acting as a protective shield for the snake.

Milk snakes themselves have 23 subspecies, and some of these subspecies have dozens of color and pattern morphs, as well as hybrids and mutants. Most milk snakes look similar except the black milk snake and albino milk snakes. Milk snakes have an exquisite tri-banded look and an excellent temperament that make them quite popular as pets in people’s houses.

Corn Snake Family and Name


Corn Snake: Well, guess what? Corn snakes are non-venomous species too and share the same family as milk snakes, ie Colubridae. However, their genus is different, and it is called “Pantherophis”. They are often called red rat snakes sometimes. They have such peculiar names because they are often seen wriggling around grain stores looking to prey on rodents like rats or mice. Rats and mice love to munch on corn cobs and maize, thus the name!

Let’s analyze their scientific name for your convenience so that you can remember their characteristics for a longer period of time. Their scientific name is Pantherophis guttatus. Pantherophis bears a Greek origin that refers to the animal panther, and “ophis” means snakes. Guttatus is a Latin word that means “drops or spotted”. The names take our attention to the colorful pattern on the snake’s body that will remind you of the blotches present on panthers.

Corn snakes debatably have 3 species– Common Corn Snake (P. guttatus), Slowinski’s Corn Snake (P. slowinskii), and Great Plains Rat Snake (P. emoryi), with the last one having only one subspecies with the same name. They have dozens of morphs and hybrids each looking prettier than the other. There are albino morphs with pink eyes that will be discussed a bit later.

How Do Milk Snake And Corn Snake Look Like?

Milk snakes have more distinct crossbands on their body than corn snakes. Milk snakes have black heads and tails, whereas corn snakes have red or orange heads and tails. However, corn snakes are slightly bigger than milk snakes. 

Almost all milk snakes have a red body to a large extent, with white (or yellow) and black bands or blotches running all over their glistening body. Exception is the Black Milk Snake (L. triangulum gaigeae), which is largely orange-red with intermittent black and white bands when they are juveniles. However, as they mature they morph into this large, sooty-black snake!

Milk snakes could be either really tiny, as small as 14 inches, or they could be as gigantic as 72 inches or 6 feet! But on average, milk snakes can grow up to 3 to 4 feet only. Their weight is not that bad either– adult milk snakes could be as heavy as 1 to 2 lbs. Black milk snakes, and some other, could grow up to 7 feet, possibly weighing about 3 lbs!

Milk Snake


Certain milk snakes look a lot like corn snakes, like the Andean milk snakes (L. t. andesiana) that have beautiful red and orange morphs, with black and white intermittent crossbands. Milk snakes have 800 recognized morphs! The tangerine Honduran milk snake, which is a morph, appears a lot like corn snakes because of their overall orange look. Milk snakes may have melanin-deprived albino morphs too, one of them being the Nelson milk snakes!

Other than corn snakes, milk snakes are often confused with copperheads. Copperhead snakes belong to the genus Agkistrodon that are venomous vipers. They have an overall brown and orange appearance.

Now let’s highlight the corn snakes. Corn snakes are an overall orange or yellow brown, with dark brown patches on their body that are outlined in black. These beautiful sunny snakes also have black and white criss-crosses on their belly that may remind you of corn kernels. However, the dark brown patches are not as bright or distinctive as the crossbands of milk snakes, and the black edges of these patches are not definite and have gaps in between.

Corn snakes can grow much larger than milk snakes. Whereas milk snakes usually grow between 3 and 4 feet, corn snakes have an average length of 5 feet. Corn snakes look a lot like copperheads too, but corn snakes do not have heat-sensing pits like the latter. Corn snakes also have orange or red heads and tails, whereas milk snakes have the same features in black. Corn snakes have albino morphs too, and they look indistinguishable from milk snake albinos.


Corn snakes have a number of beautiful morphs, ranging between the colors pink, yellow, orange, red, black and white, and fully white. Black and white morphs are called “anerythristic” because of the lack of erythrism responsible for the red pigment in corn snakes. Then there are “blizzard” morphs that are pinkish-white. They also have red eyes as they are albinos.

“Bloodred” morphs with orange and red patches also wriggle parts of the earth, and they look a lot like the Mexican milk snakes and the Honduran milk snakes because of their dominant bright red appearance. Another corn snake morph is called “butter” that is yellow and beige.

Where Do Milk Snake And Corn Snake Live?

Milk snakes have a higher population and a larger distribution than corn snakes.

Milk snakes could be found all over North America, and also parts of Central and South America. Starting from the southeastern point of Ontario to Florida in the south, from Central Minnesota to the Dakotas, these snakes could be spotted wriggling about almost everywhere.

They can even be found at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and the deserts of Mexico. Their population in North America is high and it is mainly due to their ability to live in different kinds of habitats.

Milk snakes could be spotted in dry habitats like farmlands and meadows, while, on the contrary, could be seen waiting silently for their prey at the bottom of rivers. Rocky hillsides, mountain ridges, and mixed forests of deciduous and coniferous trees are also frequently inhabited by these beautiful serpents. They basically look for cover, and abundant water and food supplies.

On the other hand, corn snakes can be found mostly in the southeastern United States, with a large population living in Florida. Some common corn snake specimens have been discovered in Australia, though they are not highly welcome there.

Corn Snake Habitat


Corn snakes can be seen basking or hiding inside the dense vegetation in forests and in wooded groves. They can also be seen frequenting open spaces like overgrown fields or meadows. Corn snakes can be seen wriggling about the Rocky landscapes or peacefully coiled around within abandoned buildings.

Elevated points as high as 6000 feet are favored places of corn snakes. When they are juveniles, they crawl around on the ground mostly, but as they mature they become more arboreal and demonstrate a greater preference for raised or elevated places, like trees or cliffs.

What Do Corn Snake And Milk Snake Eat?

Corn snakes and milk snakes have more or less similar dietary preferences, however corn snakes have a greater liking toward bats which is usually not seen in milk snakes.

Milk Snake: A lot of people tend to keep milk snakes as pets and their first question would be about their diet. In captivity, the owner may or may not be able to feed a large variety of food items to their pet milk snake. Feeding pet milk snakes living rodents or small mammals may prove to be quite difficult for some pet lovers. Therefore, in captivity, milk snakes are usually fed frozen mice.

However, in the wild, milk snakes hunt down small rodents like mice, rats and voles from within bushy growths, burrows and crevices, and swallow them whole. They are partially arboreal that widens their diet even further and allows them to thrive on birds and bird eggs as well. They can swim so amphibians and water reptiles are also within their reach. They are not called opportunistic feeders for no reason!

Milk snakes usually weigh about 225 gm in the wild, but in captivity they can weigh up to 750 gm and get really large and bulky, so you might want to feed them less frequently. They prey by constriction. They grasp their prey by using their small but sharp aglyphous teeth so that they cannot escape, all the while coiling around the body of the victim, suffocating it to fatality.

Corn Snake: They are called corn snakes for a reason. They can be found near human settlements, especially near grain stores where they prey on rodents feeding on corn. In the wilderness, within forests and open fields, they are often seen wriggling about in their serpentine ways foraging for rats, mice, and voles, with the white-footed mouse being their favorite.

Corn snakes have tree-climbing ability and would often coil up tree trunks and branches to find unguarded bird-nests. They would not hesitate to swallow down eggs or nestlings. One prey that they feed on are bats that milk snakes usually do not hunt down, according to the book “National Audubon Society Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians: North America”

American rat snakes or common corn snakes shared their ancestry with venomous snakes, but evolution resulted in them losing their venom. Now, corn snakes, just like milk snakes, subdue their prey by constriction.

One thing that both milk snakes and corn snakes do is demonstrate ophiophagous tendencies of eating other snakes. They do this by using a very interesting peristaltic technique that allows the carcass of the snake to take the shape of the corn snake’s gut. The highly elastic jaws of the two snakes allow them to eat prey larger than their skull size.

Corn and Milk Both Snakes Reproduce By Laying Eggs


How Do Corn Snake And Milk Snake Reproduce?

Milk snake hatchlings are longer than corn snake babies. 

Milk snakes and corn snakes both are oviparous, meaning they lay eggs, unlike some other snakes from the venomous Viperidae family that give birth to live young ones. The breeding season of milk snakes takes place between May and June. Females leave a pheromone tail for the males to pick up, and the males do tongue-flicking action during courtship.

A mother milk snake will lay about 10 eggs per clutch on average, but the clutch could be as big as 24 eggs! They lay eggs within the crevices of logs or under thick vegetation. Eggs are incubated for 2.5 months before the babies hatch, each 7 to 8 inches long. Usually, baby milk snakes look like their parents. However, black milk snakes are slightly unusual because they stay red in their younger years, but turn completely black by the time they are 2 years old!

Corn snakes breed in the spring season, right after the winter brumation. After copulation, if the female is ovulating, her eggs get fertilized and an egg shell is formed inside her womb. When the eggs have developed enough, they are laid in warm and moist locations. The female lays about 12 to 24 eggs which take about 10 weeks to hatch!

Baby corn snakes are each 5 inches long. Depending on the species, the snakelets will look just like their parents. The colors on the snakelet’s body may appear to be brighter than the parents but it usually gets duller as time progresses. Like all other snakes, baby corn snakes are left all alone by their parents to forage and explore, but they are well equipped for that!

Wild Behavior


How Do Milk Snake And Corn Snake Behave In The Wild?

Milk snakes are nocturnal creatures and they wriggle out of rock crevices after the sun sets to forage and explore. Most of the time during the day, they rest, bask or stay hidden. During the winters, they move to drier habitats, while in the summer, they look for warmer and more moist places to live in. They undergo brumation or molting in the colder months.

Milk snakes are secretive by nature and like to remain hidden from the sight of predators or in general. They are non-confrontational and usually attempt to escape or wriggle away for cover when they feel perturbed or threatened. They seldom ever bite. When they get cornered, they beat their tail against a rough surface to make sounds like the rattlesnake vibrating its tail!

Season plays an important role when it comes to a corn snake’s life, as far as thermoregulation is concerned. During the fall, after eating something, they try to keep their body temperatures at least 3°C higher than the surrounding temperature, but they do not demonstrate the same behavior in the winter. As they are mostly nocturnal, they roll over on the warm ground at night for thermoregulatory purposes. They detest bright light and search for dark crevices always.

In order to defend itself, it uses the same tail-vibration technique that milk snakes use, to appear intimidating to the predators. They are also known to detect odor emitted by prey or predators by using Jacobson’s organ (chemoreceptor organ) located at the back of their nasal cavity. Older corn snakes are more sensitive to visual cues, whereas younger ones to odor cues.


If you are looking to keep milk snakes and corn snakes as pets, you may find the following FAQs helpful. Run your eyes through them and become more knowledgeable about them!

Q: Are there albino corn snake and milk snake?

Ans: Yes, both the snakes have albino morphs. Like the “Salmon Snow” morph of corn snake that has light pink patches on a white body, the “Opal” morph which is completely white, and the “Blizzard” morph which is pinkish white. All these snakes have pink eyes.

Certain milk snake subspecies are affected by albinism. There is the two-headed albino morph of Honduran milk snakes that actually have two-heads, and are completely white in color! Nelson milk snake is a subspecies that are albino by birth. Sinaloan milk snakes have albino morphs too.

Q: Which morph of milk snake and corn snake is the most popular as pets?

Ans: The scaleless morph of corn snake that has no scales around the eyes, is very popular. The reason behind their popularity is that the eyes appear to be larger than other corn snakes because of the absence of the scales.

Sunkissed morphs of corn snake, which is a hybrid between the Great Plains Rat Snake and the common corn snake, are also deemed as popular. Among the milk snakes, the albino milk snakes and the black milk snakes are extremely rare.

Q: How long do corn snake and milk snake live?

Ans: In the wild, they can survive for 8 to 10 years, but in captivity for 20 years.

Q: Which one makes a better pet, corn snake or milk snake?

Ans: Corn snakes are much easier to feed because you can feed them in the same fashion every time, like administering food by tongs. They are very calm and rarely ever bite. However, baby corn snakes bite but not when they are used to your smell.

Milk snakes are a little fussy when it comes to feeding. They want to be fed by different techniques on different days. They are quite docile too but when perturbed may release a musky scent. Milk snakes are more restless and tend to climb walls of the terrarium.


When milk snake vs corn snake comparison is done, it brings out the differences between the two similar looking snakes. They both share the same body colors, similar kinds of habitat and dietary preferences. However, when they are examined closely, the nuances get expressed.

The best way to identify them is to look for their crossbands. Milk snakes have black crossbands, whereas corn snakes have black outlines around the orange patches. Also, corn snakes appear longer and larger. Both are friendly snakes and are quite popular as pets.

Hi dear readers! This is Rebecca, the lead analyst and blog writer for Snake Insider. Following in the footsteps of David’s guided path, I feel highly encouraged to make the most interesting snake-facts to a mass audience! In due time, I believe we’ll be able to present some jaw-dropping insight on snakes that’s sure to leave you begging for more! Personally, I’m a strongly motivated person to explore the most extreme environments should my work demand it. In many cases, I’ve ventured deep into territories that were never considered certain snake habitats and brought back necessary information. Rest assured I’ll surely be sharing them with you over the course of time.

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