Sinaloan Milk Snake: Introducing The Vibrant Serpents Of Sinaloa!

The mountains and rivers of Mexico are a shelter to a large diversity of plants and animals. Lizards, turtles, snakes, including birds and mammals of all kinds, roam around the dense vegetation and the arid deserts of the country. Milk snakes are abundant in the scarce vegetation near the Chihuahuan Desert, one of them being the Sinaloan milk snake.

Sinaloan milk snakes are a beauty! With the characteristic red-white-black banded look and a shy and secretive nature, they are considered as popular pets by many animal lovers. They are opportunistic feeders and strong survivors, thanks to their strong adaptability. You may be excited to know more about these wonderful snakes! Without further ado, let’s slither in!

An Overview Of Milk Snakes: Do They Live Up To Their Name?

Do you know how milk snakes got their name? Since they are often found near outbuildings like barns, a myth circulated in the past that they suckle on cows for milk. The myth is still quite popular and this is how they got their adorable name. Are they as innocent as their name though? Well, turns out, they are! They are non-venomous and are totally harmless.

Milk snakes belong to the genus Lampropeltis and are a species of King Snakes. They share a number of common traits with the king snakes, especially in diet and habitat choice, and colorful banded appearance. They are found in abundance all over America in a wide range of habitats like woodlands, forests, dunes, beaches, deserts, rocky mountains, and near water sources.

Sinaloan Milk Snake: Physical And Behavioral Characteristics

Sinaloan milk snakes are a beautiful subspecies from the milk snake family. Do they have the same red, white and black crossbands? Well, to know that we need to keep on reading!

Sinaloan Milk Snake- Family And Species

Source: @snakes_central

Family And Species

Sinaloan milk snakes have the scientific name Lampropeltis triangulum sinaloae. They belong to the genus Lampropeltis, cradled by the family of Colubridae. Colubridae contains all those snakes that are non-venomous or mildly venomous. Just like other snakes, they have retractable jaws and expandable ribs, but since they are non-venomous, they have no fangs in their mouth, except the uniformly shaped and mildly pointed aglyphous teeth.

The word Lampropeltis has a very interesting meaning. The first part of the word “lampros” is a Greek word which means “bright”, and the second part “pelt” means “shield”. Both the words point at the brightly colored protective scales that decorate their body. Their dorsal scales are quite smooth and slightly enamel-like. Bodies of Sinaloan milk snakes are vibrant and glossy.

The species name “Triangulum” has a special meaning too. A triangle has three sides, and the Sinaloan milk snake has tri-colored crossbands. We will learn about the pattern and color of these crossbands a bit later, but they bear close resemblance to many other milk snake subspecies. The subspecies name “Sinaloan” has derived from the name of a Mexican State.

Sinaloan Milk Snake Physical Description

Source: @margo_i_k.o

Physical Description

Now, let’s take a closer look at the tri-colored crossbands that we have talked about earlier. Sinaloan milk snakes flaunt a predominant blood-red coloration, with the white (or yellow) and black crossbands seemingly much thinner than the red ones. They repeat in the pattern red-black-yellow-black. The thin black crossbands outline the yellow ones, and never let the yellow cross band touch the red cross band. This is an effective way of identifying milk snakes.

  • Bands: The yellow bands may differ in shade with the locality where the milk snake has been raised. They have varieties of color and pattern morphs and in certain cases the red bands may look orange or maroon, and the white bands may look light or bright yellow, cream or beige colored. In any case the best way to identify them from other milk snakes is to look for the really long and wide red crossbands, which certainly make them stand out in the crowd.
  • Head: The head section of Sinaloan milk snakes is glistening black in appearance, with the characteristic white (or yellow) and black crossbands decorating the neck section just behind the head. The dorsal and ventral scales of Sinaloan milk snakes are exceptionally smooth and thus the exterior sparkles under the sun. The underparts of the snake is a creamy beige.
  • Length: This Sinaloae subspecies of milk snakes can grow up to about 50 inches or 4 feet. In certain cases, or in other regions of Mexico, they have been found to grow even longer. They have a slender body and are light-weight, so pet-owners can literally carry these snakes from one place to another in the palm of their hand!
  • Babies: Juvenile Sinaloans can be about 10 to 12 inches long and slightly darker than their parents. However, one special thing about juvenile Sinaloan milk snakes is that they retain their bright colors straight into adulthood no matter how many times it has molted. The opposite is true in most other milk snake subspecies, where the juveniles grow duller as they age.

Diet and Hunting

Sinaloan milk snakes can be sighted in both dry and aquatic regions, so that they can hunt for reptiles, amphibians and rodents. Rodents like mice and rats are something they usually feed on. They are semi-arboreal as well, therefore they can often be seen wriggling up tree trunks and hissing at bird nests at forked branches. They also have ophiophagous tendencies and swallow up whole snakes, including the venomous ones. They can be termed as cannibals.

Sinaloan milk snakes are non-venomous colubrids and therefore cannot catch prey with the help of fangs or venom. They detect prey with the help of their tongues. Odor chemical molecules get stuck to the tip of their tongue which they then brush against the roof of their mouth to find out the source of the scent. There are specialized chemoreceptor organs at the back of their nasal cavity that help them to smell and taste their prey.

After they have detected their prey, they strike at the direction of the prey to bite and get a grasp on the pey’s body. Their sharp and pointed aglyphous teeth prevent the prey from slipping away while slowly the snake coils around the body of the victim. The pressure of the coils is so great that the prey suffocates and dies. The snake then swallows them whole.

Sinaloan Milk Snake Range And Habitat Map

Range And Habitat

On the north-western side of Mexico, lies the beautiful state of Sinaloa. It is near the coast so it has a warm climate at the foothills and valleys. However, in the mountains, moderately cold weather persists. The Sinaloan forests are quite dry and are home to Mexican logwood, Conzattia sericea (legume), and kapok plants. Over the decades, a rich biodiversity has flourished in the heart of Sinaloa.

Frequenting the semi-arid and arid terrains of Sinaloa, southwestern parts of Sonora and the Chihuahuan Desert of Mexico, the Sinaloan milk snakes can be found. During the day, these vibrant snakes can be spotted resting beneath loose rocks and under cactus plants. They are quite shy by nature and often find a hiding place within rock crevices and  under wood piles.

Though they are secretive in temperament, they are not particularly scared of humans. For this reason, Sinaloan milk snakes can be seen in places near human settlements like barns or sheds. Since they spend most of their daytime hours resting or basking under the sun, they become quite active when the sun goes down. They are active nocturnal foragers.

Sinaloan milk snake Egg Laying and Reproduction

Source: @reptilmadrid


Sinaloan milk snakes breed between May and June, right after brumation. Distinctive courtship mannerism from both the genders can be observed. Females leave a pheromone trail when they are ovulating. Males headbutt with the females and continuously keep flicking their tongue. The males persists pursuing, along with jerking movements and tongue flicking, the female wherever she goes. Once the female becomes more stationary, the copulation begins.

Sinaloan milk snakes are oviparous snakes and they lay eggs. After 1 or 1.5 months of mating, females lay about 5 to 15 elongated eggs within rotting vegetation, or under boards, rocks or rotting wood. Females incubate the eggs for 2 to 2.5 months. Sinaloans may breed again for the second time within the same year. A second clutch may form after 40 to 50 days.


Leading a solitary lifestyle is a thing among milk snakes. They form groups during hibernation in winter and at sun basking times. The same tendency is visible among Sinaloan milk snakes as well. They can hardly be seen during the day as they take cover within rock crevices and under leaf litter or cacti plants. However, at night time they can be seen wriggling along road sides.

During foraging at night, they demonstrate special hunting and defense techniques. Animals like raccoons, foxes and owls are active at night and they prey on Sinaloan milk snakes. To protect themselves, the milk snake pursues aposematic mimicry, in other words they take advantage of their bright colors and patterns that resemble those of some venomous snakes like copperheads and coral snakes. Predators take to their heels when they see Sinaloans.

Sinaloan milk snakes are also known to shake their tail against dry leaves making a sound that resembles the tail movement sound of rattlesnakes. These milk snakes also discharge a pungent smelling substance via their cloacal opening that make predators head to where they came from. These dazzling milk snakes are quite harmless otherwise and seldom ever bite.

However, in captivity they have been found to be quite quick and jumpy when held or handled even by seasoned pet keepers. But when left alone, they like to stay coiled in a corner.

Sinaloan Milk Snake: Can They Be Kept As Pets?

Sinaloan Milk Snake Kept As Pets

Source: @kiba_reptiles

Sinaloan milk snakes have brilliant colors of red, white and black crossbands in recurring patterns that really make them stand out. They are docile critters that rarely bite, and are also quite friendly toward humans. Caring for them is very easy and cost effective. So why would an animal lover and a snake enthusiast not keep these milk snakes as pets? Of course they would!

Sinaloan milk snakes love to be fed the raw, frozen and thawed fuzzy rats. It goes without saying that juveniles need to be fed the small pinky mice version. Feeding them once or twice a week is more than enough. Avoid overfeeding them or feeding them too frequently. It may make them sick or make them more vulnerable toward conditions like obesity.

As you know, milk snakes show cannibalistic tendencies, meaning they tend to attack and feed on other snakes. Therefore, if you have more than one snake in your household or reserve, you must keep each snake inside a separate tank or terrarium. Never keep even the same subspecies together as the older ones may attack the younger ones.

Substrate And Temperature

Sinaloan milk snakes can be housed in a 20 gallon terrarium or enclosure, and shredded aspen could be given as substrate. Provide a large bowl of water and change the water regularly. Presence of water is paramount for milk snakes since it makes it easier for old skin to come off during their molting season. These milk snakes defecate a lot so you need to clean often.

Temperature could be between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. A temperature drop at night is not required. An under-tank heating pad could be used to maintain 90 degrees Fahrenheit temperature at the warm spot. They love to bask so a basking lamp could be provided. Artificial decorations like caves, trees, and logs of wood could be installed within the terrarium.

Do Sinaloan Milk Snakes Have Other Colors?

Yes, Sinaloan milk snakes have some mutant variants and hybrids that will totally mesmerize you. Some of the morphs are quite recent and may not be available for adoption but you already have a lot of other options to choose from. Below is given the description of such morphs.

  • T-minus Albino: These morphs have orange and white crossbands, and there are no black crossbands present. They are albinos snakes so the red color is subdued, and black pigment is absent. The crossbands are uniformly thick and the head is white.
  • T-Positive Albino: In this morph black pigment is present in a subdued form. The black bands appear as more purplish-black than solid black. The pattern of crossbands is red-brown-white-brown-red. The red color is bright red.
  • Harper Melanistic Mutation: The red segment of these Sinaloan milk snake morphs is bright maroonish-red and the head is black. The black cross bands are not exactly black but darker than the ones of T-positive albino morph. The pattern of crossbands is red-black-white-black-red.
  • Splotched Mutation: This morph is one of the most recent morphs. It is probably the only milk snake that has longitudinal bands, instead of horizontal crossbands. On the upper part of the snake, the color is solid black with large white dots. On the sides and underbelly, it is bright red. The face is black and white. It is vibrant and glossy, very slender, and very tiny.


Sinaloan milk snakes are some of the prettiest snakes around. You may want to know more about them if you want to rescue a Sinaloan or adopt one.

Q: Does the Sinaloan milk snake look like any other snake?

Ans: Yes, Sinaloan milk snakes look a lot like the venomous elapids– the coral snakes. Coral snakes have the same tri-colored bands (black-white-red) on their scales as well. However, the pattern is different. In coral snakes, the red cross band never touches the white or yellow bands.

Q: Is the Sinaloan milk snake a type of king snake?

Ans: Milk snakes are a species of kingsnakes and therefore share common physical and behavioral traits. Sinaloan milk snakes are a subspecies of milk snakes, so will share commonalities with king snakes. Therefore, yes, Sinaloan milk snakes are a type of kingsnakes.

Q: Are Sinaloan milk snakes poisonous?

Ans: No, they are not poisonous. They are non-venomous colubrids.

Q: What sets Sinaloan milk snakes apart from other milk snakes?

Ans: Sinaloan milk snakes possess wide red bands, with the black and white bands being incredibly narrow. Also, juveniles retain their blood-red color to adulthood and look like carbon copies of their parents.


Red, white and black colors make a wonderful pattern, and if they are intermittently present on the body of an animal, it bestows great privileges on that unsuspecting critter. Take Sinaloan milk snake, for instance. The banded pattern on their body makes them look more intimidating. .

Other than the banded pattern and glossy, vibrant appearance, they also exercise effective defense techniques and hunting mechanisms. One of the most beneficial tactics they pursue is mimicry of venomous snakes to keep predators at bay. They are a bunch of clever serpents!

Hello snake lovers! I’m David Mifsud and Snake Insider is my latest project with a vision of spreading reptile awareness to every single netizen. I’ll be introducing some of the most unexplored territories in the world of snakes to broaden the horizon of knowledge for the readers. My personal motto is to get as close to the snakes in nature without disrupting the balance and gather information as well as habitation patterns. It can be later on utilized in order to build a safe and healthy environment for every species of snakes. So stick around with us and I’m sure we won’t disappoint you!

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