Milk Snake, a nonpoisonous, useful species of king snake. The milk snake is found throughout the eastern United States and in southern Ontario. It frequents barns and farmyards in search of mice and rats. Its name is based on the false belief that the snake sucks milk from cows. The milk snake attacks and swallows both harmless and poisonous snakes, and is at least partly immune to most snake venom.

Milk snakesMilk snakes resemble coral snakes, but are harmless to humans.

The milk snake's body, which may be 40 inches (1 m) long, is marked with black-edged spots of red, brown, olive, or gray. The female lays from 6 to 12 leathery white eggs, usually underground or in moist, rotting wood. The young are more brightly colored than the adults.

Why Do Milk Snakes Hang Around Barns?

A slender snake silently enters a barn. Is the snake there to drink a cow’s milk? No, but that’s what people once believed. The milk snake is really looking for a mouse or a rat. If there isn’t one, a lizard or a small bird will do.

A milk snake is a kind of kingsnake. And there are many different kinds of milk snakes. Some may grow as long as 6 feet (1.8 meters). None are poisonous.

Like the kingsnake, milk snakes come in different colors and patterns. The eastern milk snake is gray with brownish spots on its back and sides. Some kinds are brightly colored. Their red, black, and yellow bands make them look like coral snakes. Coral snakes are deadly—which is why a lot of milk snakes end up dead. People often mistake them for coral snakes and kill them.

The milk snake is Lampropeltis triangulum of the family Colubridae.