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Pale Milk Snake
Lampropeltis triangulum multistriata

  • Hatchling: 5 - 8 inches
  • Adult: 16 - 32 inches

  • Dorsal: 19 - 21 rows
  • Ventral: 186 - 204
  • Sub caudal: 42 - 55
  • Infra labial: 8 - 10 (usually 9)
  • Supra labial: 7 - 8 (usually 7)
  • Anal Plate: Single

Photo courtesy Martin Schmidt
click to enlarge
Written by Troy Hibbitts

The head of the pale milk is usually mostly white, with the black largely confined to the parietals and rear portions of the frontals. The snout, labials, and temporals are often flecked with black. In some individuals, there are large areas of red or orange on the head, particularly on the parietals (often partially replacing the black).

From 22 to 32 triads of red or orange (usually orange), black and white; the average is 27. The white rings are usually from one and a half to four scales wide (usually 2 or 3). The black and orange portions of the triads usually form blotches or bands that do not reach the ventral scales. The black ranges from one to two scales wide, and the orange ranges from one to three and a half scales wide. Usually, the orange is not interrupted by black middorsally, but this pattern can be found in occassional individuals.

Hatchlings tend to have white rings which are very bright and uncluttered with black flecking, while in most adults these bands often appear gray. Some specimens have their white tinted with cream. The orange blotches vay from individual to individual, as well as between populations. In some specimens the orange is very bright, while in others it is faded and very pale. Occassional snakes have the orange more red, but the red is rarely as bright as is seen in other subspecies. An orange and white pale milk, marked with very little black, is a very striking snake indeed.

The ventral surfaces of most multistriata are white with small black marks. Usually, the the black is much reduced; in some specimens, the black is missing entirely, making the belly all white.

Multistriata can be found from May to September. It is surface active both day and night, temperatures permitting. They are occasionally found basking on rocks, logs, or open sand. They have also been found crossing roads at night. Rainfall seems to be a key to their surface movements. While some multistriata are fairly nervous and jumpy snakes, others can be quite calm.

Multistriata require a 3 (or more) month brumation period in order to stimulate breeding, and seem to require colder temperatures than other milksnakes. Breeding takes place shortly after the animals are warmed up. The male will usually bite the female behind the head while copulating, and copulation can occur for an extended period of time (several hours). A clutch of 2 to 9 eggs will be laid 30-40 days after fertilization. Egg size (and therefore neonate size) depends largely upon the size of the female. Incubation usually takes about 60 days at 82 degrees Farhenheit.

This subspecies is found on the northern plains from central Nebraska north and west through South Dakota and into Montana. It is also found in the eastern third of Wyoming. It intergrades with gentilis in southern Nebraska and northeastern Colorado and with syspila in eastern Nebraska.

Multistriata is primarily a snake of the open prairie. It is most common in the sandhills region of north central Nebraska, but is no where common. There are very few rocks or logs present in its habitat, and cover of all sorts is utilized.

Most wild probably eat lizards - Fence Lizards (Sceloporus) and racerunners (Cnemidophorus) - and small rodents - mice (Peromyscus) and voles (Microtus). In captivity, juveniles can usually be started on Peromyscus or Peromyscus-scented mice, and most wild caught adults typically feed readily on pre-killed lab mice (fuzzies or small weanlings).

Literature Cited:

Conant, R. and J.T. Collins. 1991. Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern/Central North America. Houghton Mifflin, Co., Boston.

Williams, K.L. 1988. Systematics and natural history of the American milk snake (Lampropeltis triangulum), 2nd revised edition . Milwaukee Public Museum.

Cherry County, Nebraska
Photo by Kirk Setser
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Charles Mix County, South Dakota
Photo by Kirk Setser
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