This Week’s Endangered Species in Focus: The Milksnake (Lampropeltis Triangulum)

Milksnake (Lampropeltis Triangulum)

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Most often seen at night while hunting, the milksnake is grey or tan with alternating red or reddish-brown blotches (outlined in black) along its back and sides, its belly looks like black and white checkerboard.  The milksnake can grow to be one metre in length or more. In early spring, the female lays approximately 3-24 eggs and the babies will hatch about 7-20 weeks later, with a life span of approximately 7 years, but have been known to live up to 20.


  • Special Concern Provincially and Nationally

Important Dates:

  • May 2002: Designated as Species of Special Concern;
  • May 2014: Last time assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC);


  • The below image provided by Ontario Nature Organization shows the milksnakes distribution in Southern Ontario:
  • Southern Ontario and a small section of the Ottawa River in Quebec appear to have the most recorded sightings of this species in Canada;



  • Lives in a wide range of habitats, such as rocky outcrops, forests, prairies, pastures and farm buildings where rodents are common;
  • In late October/early November will hibernate underground in rotting logs or in the foundations of old buildings.


  • Due to its mistaken identity (rattler) when threatened, the milksnake is often persecuted by pedestrians;
  • Habitat loss remains a threat to this species as well;
  • The slow-moving milksnake can be found crossing busy roads and will ultimately be ran over by vehicles if not moving fast enough.


What YOU Can Do To Help:

  • If you encounter the milksnake on an outing, report your sighting to the Natural Heritage Information Centre with your coordinates for further investigation;
  • The Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas collects observations of the milksnake as well;
  • Volunteer at your local Nature Club to learn more about the species of special concern in your area;
  • Throughout May to October, keep your eye out for the slow moving milksnake crossing our roads;
  • Never purchase snakes that have been captured in the wild – contact the Ministry of Natural Resources to report any known illegal activities (1.877.TIPS.MNR (847.7667));


  • Sometimes mistaken as a rattlesnake when threatened, the milksnake raises its head high in the air and vibrates its tail and may attempt to bite;
  • The milksnake received its name from the false belief that it took milk from cows in barns;
  • This snake is the only snake in Ontario that has red blotches;
  • The milksnake is actually a type of constrictor – it wraps itself around its prey to kill and them feed (similar to the tropical Boa Constrictor);

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