What Do Milk Snakes Eat

What Do Milk Snakes Eat: Discover What These Critters Include In Their Menu!

Milk snakes belong to the Colubridae family consisting of a gigantic population of non-venomous or mildly venomous snakes. By inheritance, milk snakes are not venomous. The scientific name of these beautiful snakes is Lampropeltis triangulum, and they got this name mainly because of their tri-banded appearance adorned by the colors red, black and white.

Milk snakes are popular as pets mainly because they are adorable and docile. What do milk snakes eat– is a question that many ask so that the animal can be taken care of at home. Milk snakes spend most of the daytime hours basking or hiding within rock crevices, coming out at night to forage and explore. Let’s not waste a minute more and join them in their exploration!

What Do Milk Snakes Eat: List Of Prey Animals And Dietary Habits

Do milk snakes drink milk? It is a good question. Milk snakes are named so for a reason. They are often spotted near human settlements, like outbuildings such as barns or sheds. Because of this reason, many have wrongly assumed that these snakes suckle on cow’s milk, and this is how they got their name. So, if they do not feed on milk, what do they feed on? Let’s find out!

Milk Snakes Dietary Habits

Source: @wildlife_con

What Do Milk Snakes Eat?

A very big part of a milk snake’s diet are rodents and lizards. However, their habitat and seasonal availability of food, or other factors like climate or deforestation, all play a part in determining what they eat. Andean milk snakes, for instance, live in the mountains and usually aim for small mammals, birds and bird eggs. On the other hand, Mexican milk snakes, which live in the arid conditions of Mexico are used to eating mainly lizards, mice and voles.

Snakes depend on other animals for proteins and fats in order to build their body, repair the wear and tear, and get energy to carry out metabolic activities. While feeding milk snakes you must remember, they are not cats or dogs! Food that is usually fed to pet cats and dogs are high in carbs and fats which are not suitable for snakes. There are certain milk snakes like the Black milk snakes that tend to get obese when they eat too frequently or are fed the wrong items.

In the wild, milk snakes prefer a strictly carnivorous diet. Pueblan milk snakes, living in Puebla Mexico, usually go for birds, rats, lizards and frogs. Honduran milk snakes are highly opportunistic and will eat almost anything it can subdue, which includes, lizards, rodents, birds and other snakes. Nelson milk snakes like almost the same items as others including small amphibians. Red milk snakes exclusively feed on rodents, and occasionally lizards.

Baby milk snakes eat smaller versions of the same animals listed above. Their jaws and ribs, though fully equipped right from the very second they hatch from their eggs, may get injured if they try to swallow large-sized prey. They usually go for small songbirds, their eggs, small amphibians like newts or tadpoles, lizards, baby mice or baby rats, and others of the likes. Some baby milk snakes like to eat crickets, slugs and earthworms.

Milk snakes, like all other snakes, get their full nutritional value from its prey when it swallows it whole. The snake gets Vitamin D from a rat’s liver, plant proteins in case the prey was a herbivore, fats from the adipose tissues of the carcass, and other nutrients. Rodents, being most nutritious, provide them with Vitamin D, Calcium, Phosphorus, among other nutrients.

What Do Milk Snakes Eat As Pets

Source: @amazing_snakes84

What Do Milk Snakes Eat As Pets?

In human supervision, either at home or in an animal reserve or sanctuary, milk snakes are usually fed frozen thawed mice and rats. Mice and rats are packed with vitamins, minerals, proteins, and essential fatty acids. Baby and adult milk snakes need those nutrients to grow, molt, digest food, locomote, and carry out other bodily functions in order to remain alive.

If frozen prey is not available or if you want to feed your snake fresh food, then it would be better if you opt for prey that have been pre-killed. Live prey should better not be fed to milk snakes, especially juvenile milk snakes, because the risk of jaw injury always remains. Food items should be served whole and not in pieces. Whole food contains full nutritional value. Also, food items must not be processed and must be served cool or cold, and never warm or hot.

Baby milk snakes are fed thawed pinky mice or any other suitable food item that is smaller than their head and body circumference. Young milk snakes should be fed once per week while adults could be fed a big fuzzy mouse once every two weeks. Proper cleaning of uneaten food items is absolutely necessary and a large water bowl should be given for milk snakes to drink water from. They also immerse in water to cool themselves or to shed properly during molting.

One thing in milk snake care that you must remember is that milk snakes should not be under or overfed. Overfeeding your pet milk snake will definitely lead to obesity. Unchecked obesity may lead to heart or liver failure in the long run. You will often find frozen rodents in retail stores labeled as “Extra Large” which are actually full of fat and quite unhealthy for your pet milk snake. Black milk snakes, for instance, tend to get obese very easily.

Exercise is needed for your milk snake to stay in shape. Refrain from keeping them in small enclosures where they cannot move about. A 20 to 30 gallon terrarium or tank, fully equipped with ornaments and a thick substrate for your snake to explore, is necessary. Spend quality time with your pet milk snake. Allow it some out-of-tank time once in a while but keep it supervised.

Do Milk Snakes Eat Other Snakes?

Yes, milk snakes do show ophiophagous tendencies where they eat other snakes, even the venomous ones! All milk snake subspecies practice cannibalism, some more than the other. Snakes have elongated bodies and all the internal organs, including stomach, lungs and kidneys are tube-like to accommodate inside the body. But is the gut, which is the tube starting at its mouth till its cloaca, long enough to accommodate a snake carcass?

In order to fit the prey’s carcass inside the gut, milk snakes bend and twist their body like a caterpillar, called a ‘concertina-like’ movement, to turn the prey-snake’s dead body into a muscular wavelength shape. As the carcass gets pushed to the stomach, the tissues start getting digested by the acids and digestive enzymes present inside the organ. The tissues of the carcass start softening making it easier for it to fit inside the gut system of the milk snake.

Why Do Milk Snakes Not Poison Themselves When They Eat Venomous Snakes?

Venom is only dangerous when it is injected straight into the tissues and bloodstream of the victim, which could be another animal or a human being. When venom or a venomous snake is eaten or swallowed, the substance or food item goes to the stomach first, before entering blood.

Inside the stomach there are highly corrosive acids and digestive enzymes that break down the constituents of the venom-protein into amino acids. This is one of the reasons why eating a venomous snake will not poison the milk snake. But the story does not end here.

Most snakes, including milk snakes, are immune to snake venom. They make their own antidote inside their body. This antidote is somewhat similar to the function of the immune system of a mammal which protects the mammal from getting infected by harmful bacteria or viruses.

In the same way, the antidote will neutralize the venom and turn it into harmless substances which will not affect the milk snake in any way whatsoever. Even if milk snakes get bitten by venomous snakes, they hold enough immunity to survive in the face of adversity.

How Do Milk Snakes Eat Prey Larger Than Their Own Head?

Milk Snakes Can Eat Prey Larger Than Their Own HeadSource: @fedzenreptiles

All snakes have expandible jaws and ribs. The jaws of a milk snake, whether adult or juvenile, are not affixed to the skull, but instead are attached to the skull by means of stretchable ligaments. The lower jaw has a division at the center which is again attached by the same type of ligament. These ligamentous attachments allow the jaws to open up into a huge gape when the milk snake is attempting to swallow a prey larger than its own head.

Not only that but the ribs of a snake are exposed, meaning they do not meet at a sternum or breastbone as they do in a mammalian skeleton. This allows the ribs to open up accordingly to make space for the food item being pushed down the gut system. Do milk snakes chew their food? No, milk snakes use their aglyphous teeth to grasp the prey while constricting it.

Milk Snakes Eat Plants

Source: @senticolisdeem

Do Milk Snakes Eat Plants?

All snakes are carnivores, meaning they feed on the flesh of other animals. Fruits and vegetables, other plant products, or any type of vegetation for that matter, are not included in a snake’s diet because the digestive system of a snake is not designed to extract nutrients from plant-based materials. On top of that, citrusy taste or even smell act as a snake deterrent.

However, milk snakes may eat an animal that was a herbivore or an omnivore, like a bird or a mouse. Inside the stomach of a herbivore or an omnivore, there are bound to be some plant materials. Plus, the protein present in the tissues of that animal is plant-based or plant-derived. But, in order to amuse yourself, you may read about the Asiatic fruit-eating snake, a bioengineered snake that is famous for eating fruits!

How Do Milk Snakes Digest Their Food?

The organs inside the body of all snakes, including milk snakes, are tube-shaped to accommodate inside the narrow, elongated body of this wriggling critter. Even the lungs and kidneys are tubular in appearance. After a milk snake has swallowed its prey whole, it becomes motionless for at least 48 hours in order to retain heat to initiate the digestion process.

The stomach of a milk snake contains enzymes and corrosive acids that break down proteins into digestible and soluble compounds. Gallbladder and pancreas further helps in completing the digestion process. Digestion is a very arduous process for a snake and if anything perturbs it during digestion, it may regurgitate the stomach content in order to flee.

The entire body of a prey is digested within 1 or 2 weeks. Parts like fur, hair, claws and bones are expelled via the cloaca in the defecation process. Snake feces resemble the droppings of most other animals. Both feces and urine are excreted through the same cloacal opening, therefore you will see white urea in their feces. Fecal matter is brown and smells slightly.


What do milk snakes eat? Most milk snakes will feed on rodents and lizards. However, there are semi-arboreal subspecies like the Andean and Black milk snakes that will climb up trees and hiss at birds and their eggs. The ones living near freshwater sources will eat small amphibians.

They are fully carnivorous animals and will feed on the flesh of other animals. They show signs of cannibalism in the sense that they do not hesitate to eat other snakes, be they venomous or non-venomous. Milk snakes are highly opportunistic that make them ruthless in the wilderness.

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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