What to Know About the Honduran Milk Snake

Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on December 10, 2022

There are several varieties of snakes out there. With more than 3,400 species worldwide, snakes can be found on almost every continent except Antarctica. Only 15% of those snakes produce venom, and only 7% are dangerous to humans.

The non-venomous snakes pose little threat to humans. However, many humans are unsure how to tell a venomous snake apart from a non-venomous snake, so they fear all snakes. Not all snakes are bad, though; many are actually good for the environment. For example, snakes help keep pest populations, such as rodents, under control.

The Lampropeltis triangulum is a non-venomous snake that many people know as the milk snake or the Honduran milk snake. The Honduran milk snake is originally from Central America and can be found in Honduras, Nicaragua, and parts of Costa Rica. They prefer low elevations and favor tropical forests.

The sex of the offspring is often determined by incubation temperature. Warmer temperatures create males, while females are created in cooler temperatures.

Milk snakes have the largest distribution of all snakes in the Americas. They get their name from a myth that they suck out the milk of barn cows.

When looking at the Honduran milk snake, it’s important that you understand its physical and behavioral characteristics so that you can tell it apart from other, potentially venomous, species. 

Honduran milk snake physical characteristics. The Honduran milk snake is medium-sized with a long and slender body. The milk snake’s scales are smooth and the anal scales are undivided. Honduran milk snakes are one of the largest milk snakes. They can grow up to 5 feet in length, while milk snakes in general tend to reach around 2 to 2.5 feet long. However, some can reach 3 feet or more.

Their pattern is blotchy, but the colors can vary. Some Honduran milk snakes are lightly colored with light gray or brown bodies with red blotches. Some may even have tan and yellow bands on a red body. While these colors are beautiful, they are usually considered warning colors. Most animals that have similar colors are venomous. The colors are said to be imitations for milk snakes to avoid possible threats. 

Milk snakes are often confused for the coral snake, a venomous snake that shares habitats with milk snakes. The difference between these two snakes is that a coral snake’s red bands are bordered by yellow, whereas the milk snake’s red bands are bordered by black. 

Another type of snake that the milk snake is often confused for is the fox snake. This happens mostly when the milk snake has a brown body and blotches. 

The coloration of milk snakes often varies depending on where they live. 

Honduran milk snake behavioral characteristics. Milk snakes are solitary creatures that don’t like traveling through the day hours but can often be seen at night. They only group when hibernating.

Milk snakes become more active in certain places, such as South Dakota, during warmer months, namely from April through October. Once it gets colder, they slither into overwinter locations, such as rocky crevices and burrows. Unlike other reptiles, milk snakes prefer to seek shelter underneath rocks and wood instead of sun basking. 

The milk snake is known to be secretive. They will sometimes hibernate in stone walls and old wells, and sometimes even in attics and basements.

Milk snakes mate in the spring and early summer months. Females lay around 8-12 eggs and the eggs hatch two months later. The juveniles are around 6-10 inches in length.

Milk snakes startle and scare away potential predators by making quick movements so that their bands become more prominent. Predators recognize the milk snake’s color pattern as dangerous. The distraction of their flashing bands usually allows these snakes the opportunity to escape. 

When threatened, milk snakes will produce a musk, vibrate their tails, and strike and bite.

Whether you want to bring one of these beautiful snakes home as a pet or are interested in how they survive in the wild, you should understand their habitats and diets. 

Honduran milk snake habitat. Milk snakes can be found in various habitats. They’re found in many states and countries and live in prairie lands, grasslands, and lush forests. They favor rocky terrains with rocks for cover.

When in captivity, it's important to provide them with a proper habitat. Juvenile milk snakes can be housed in smaller enclosures, but you should always upgrade those enclosures to bigger ones as your snake matures. An adult Honduran milk snake should have an enclosure that is 47 inches by 19 inches or more. These snakes should be kept individually unless during mating season. They are carnivores and may eat other snakes if given the chance. 

The substrate you use for your snake's enclosure should be one that they can dig through. You can use a poplar bed or coconut-based soil. Keep the humidity between 60 and 70%. When housing a milk snake, you should provide them with plenty of shelter options. It's also important to keep temperatures warm on one side and cold on the other. The warm side should be around 82 Fahrenheit, and the cold side should be around 75 Fahrenheit. The hottest zone should not exceed 86 Fahrenheit. 

Honduran milk snakes don't need to bask, so there's no need to provide a basking area in their enclosure. However, include plenty of places for them to climb. 

Honduran milk snake diet. Milk snakes are carnivores. They hunt and eat various animals in the wild, including reptiles, invertebrates, reptile eggs, mice, amphibians, and birds and bird eggs. They are also known for eating other snakes.

One common health issue affecting snakes is snake fungal disease (SFD). This disease is known to affect many species, including milk snakes. SFD causes facial swelling and can result in eye infections and pneumonia. The disease is shed into the environment through infected animals where snakes can become infected.

The Honduran milk snake lifespan is around 20 years. They're preyed on by several different animals, including skunks, coyotes, raccoons, birds of prey, and foxes. They’re also often killed by people who fear snakes.

Show Sources

Amphibians and Reptiles of South Dakota: “Milksnake (Lampropeltis triangulum).”
Animal Diversity Web: “Lampropeltis triangulum.”
Bar C Ranch: “Honduran Milk Snake.”
College of Agriculture, Food and Environment: “Eastern Milksnake (Lampropeltis triangulum).”
Cornell Wildlife Health Lab: “Snake Fungal Disease.”
Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife: “SPECIES SPOTLIGHTS.”
Mascotarios: "Honduran milk snake."
MN Department of Natural Resources: “Milk Snake.”
Morgridge Institute for Research: “Blue Sky Science: How many species of snakes are there?”
New Hampshire Fish and Game: “Eastern Milk Snake (Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum).”
Potawatomi Zoo: “Honduran Milk Snake.”
Save The Snakes: “Why Snakes?”
Science Trek: “Snakes: Facts.”
SeaWorld: “Honduran Milksnake.”

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