Red Milk Snake

Red Milk Snake: A-Z And Care Guide

Across the Mississippi River, from the northwestern states all the way down to the south-eastern parts of the United States, one can find the habitats of the red milk snakes. Almost all milk snakes have an overall red appearance, so what sets the red milk snakes apart from the rest?

Red milk snakes demonstrate various color variations as we move up and down the different states of the US. Some have a brighter-red look, while others showcase a more maroonish countenance. There is also something distinctive about the color of their head. Without further ado, let’s know more about these snakes and explore their home in the wilderness.

Let’s Explore The Vibrant Life Of The Red Milk Snakes!

Before we get introduced to the red milk snakes, we should get acquainted with the family and genus they belong to. Milk snakes belong to a large family of non-venomous snakes called Colubridae and the genus they are cradled within is termed as Lampropeltis. The word “Lampropeltis” has a Greek origin which means “bright shields” and we will soon know why.

The full scientific name of milk snakes is Lampropeltis triangulum. The word “Triangulum” is a Greek word too that refers to the triangle shape. Milk snakes flaunt a signature look of having crossbands of three different colors on their body– black, white and red. Their scientific name basically refers to the tri-colored crossbands, made up of scales that act as a protective shield.

The Mystery Behind The Name Of Red Milk Snakes

Mystery Behind The Name Of Red Milk Snakes

Source: @herpetaul

Red milk snakes are one of the 23 subspecies of milk snakes. The scientific name of the red milk snakes is Lampropeltis triangulum syspila. The subspecies name “Syspila” has a Greek origin which means “spots clumped together”. Syspila refers to the dark red, or sometimes maroonish red or orange, patch of scales present on the posterior side of their head. This feature sets the red milk snakes apart from other milk snakes where the head is mostly black.

The classic version of red milk snakes is a bright red overall. They do have white and black crossbands, which is a trademark feature of milk snakes, but the dominant color is a striking, vibrant red that one cannot miss. The white crossbands are again a contrasting, strong white, edged with a thin black outline. The tails taper off with a red or maroon tip.

There are various color morphs as we move from one state to another state. There are bright-orange or blood-orange morphs in Missouri and Louisiana. Brighter red versions are more commonly sighted in Tennessee. The orange morphs have an orange head. The undersides of red milk snakes have a checkerboard pattern marked in crisscrosses of black and white.


If you pass diagonally through the center of the United States, starting from the northwestern point all the way down to the southeastern states of the country, you will get to see this subspecies of milk snakes in almost all the states that fall within this area. States like Indiana, Western Kentucky, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Kansas and Alabama, and some more states, all witness the wriggling movement of the gorgeous red milk snakes.

The rainy spring season and the hot and humid summer season of this region provide ideal living conditions for snakes to thrive in. The winters are however quite cold and may reach subzero temperatures. There are plenty of shrubs, prairies and forests, strewn with rivers and lakes of all sizes, that have been nurturing a rich flora and fauna for decades.

Red Milk Snake Prefer Dry Habitat Most

Source: @lostinthewoods18


Woodlands and edges of forests seem to be the most coveted spot of this Syspila subspecies to forage and hide in. The darkness and density of foliage within the forests give them the coolness and cover that they seek during hot summer months. The interiors and edges of forests are also a place where different kinds of animals and birds venture.

Dry habitats are more favorable to them than moist ones. During the daytime, they mostly like to maintain a low profile within rock outcrops and underneath piles of wood. Low vegetation, grasslands and leaf-covered areas are also quite cherished by this subspecies of milk snakes. These places provide good camouflage to these snakes since they are quite brightly colored.


Rodents and lizards make a large part of their diet. Mouse, nutria, squirrels, gophers, groundhogs and beavers roam around the landscapes of Alabama and Kansas. Racerunners, skinks, anoles, and other types of lizards scuttle and wiggle about the dense vegetation in Kentucky and South Dakota. The range is a foraging heaven for the red milk snakes.

Red milk snakes are non-venomous colubrids that do not possess fangs or venom. The only way red milk snakes can subdue their prey is to constrict them to fatality. These snakes at first grasp the prey by using their small but pointed aglyphous teeth, all the while making tight coils around the prey’s body, slowly suffocating it. The snake then devours the prey in one piece.


Red milk snakes are nocturnal creatures mostly because it is safer and cooler after the sun sets, and camouflaging from predators becomes easier. They look a lot like the venomous coral snakes and copperheads because of their dominantly red appearance, and predators think it is wise not to pursue a threatening animal and scuttle away or retreat.

Not only that but red milk snakes are known to mimic the tail-beating movement of the venomous rattlesnakes. They beat their tail-end against dry leaves that make the notorious rattling sound that even the bravest beasts in the forests are scared of. However, they are usually docile and striking or biting is an unnatural habit for the red milk snakes.


Red milk snake babies are as gorgeous as their parents and could be even brighter in appearance. Red milk snake mating behavior includes a hot pursuit by the males after one female, often following the pheromone trail that the female leaves behind. Their mating takes place in the spring season, almost always after a traditional winter brumation.

Milk snakes usually lay between 10 and 20 eggs, but an average clutch consists of 10 eggs. The eggs are laid in the summer season within hidden rock crevices or underneath thick vegetation. Red milk snake babies are between 8 to 10 inches and are fully equipped to forage about on their own after they hatch in the absence of their parents.

Red Milk Snake: Can They Be Kept As Pets?

Red Milk Snake Is A Ideal Pet for Home for It's Cool Behaviour and Cuteness

Source: @bluegrassherping

Taking care of red milk snakes at home or in an animal reserve is not a big deal at all. They are fairly docile by nature and rarely bite. Even if they do bite, it does not hurt that much and can be taken care of by a first aid kit. Red milk snakes are fairly tiny and grow no longer than 4 feet. Handing them is very easy– just refrain from poking and prodding them too much since they are very fragile. Always wash your hands before and after feeding them to avoid any attacks.

A 20 to 30 gallon tank or similar sized terrarium are comfortable enough for the Syspila milk snakes. A warm and a cool corner must be provided. The warm corner could be between 85 and 90°F, and the cool side within 70-80°F. Halogen flood heat bulbs would suffice. A humidity level of 40 to 60% could be maintained, together with the placement of a large water dish. Make the substrate at least 4 inches deep, consisting of leaf litter, aspen shavings or cypress mulch.


Red milk snakes are different from other milk snakes because they exist in varying shades of red, and they have a large red blotch on the back of their head. Usually this is not the case in other milk snakes where the head is black or dark maroon in color.

They live across a wide range within the United States, with dry, rocky areas being their favorite breeding and foraging ground. They are shy and non-confrontational. Syspila mlk snakes spend most of the daytime relaxing, foraging mostly at night. They are deeply cherished 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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