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Features: The Milksnake(Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum) is a beautifully marked snake that can grow to a length of one metre or more. Dorsal blotches are usually red with black borders, but colouration is quite variable and blotches may be brown or even green. It is the only snake in Ontario that is reddish.
This species is not venemous and captures small mammals, especially mice, and small ground-nesting birds with its teeth, then subdueing them by constriction. It lives in a wide range of habitats, especially old fields and farm buildings where rodents are common. It is more likely to be encountered at night when it is hunting, since during the day it is secretive and usually hides under objects. If surprised or threatened, it will take an aggressive posture: It raises its head in the air, vibrates its tail and may attempt to bite. It has sometimes been mistaken for a rattlesnake, as the vibrating tail can make a buzzing sound in dry leaves.
Status: Special Concern Provincially and Nationally
Range: The Milksnake occurs from Quebec and Maine south to Alabama and Georgia, and west to Minnesota and Iowa. In Ontario, it is widespread and locally common in southern Ontario, and ranges as far north as Lake Nipissing and Sault Ste. Marie.
Threats: There are no historical data to assess long term trends in this species, especially declines in Ontario. Historically, human persecution has been a threat. Because it is often around farm buildings, it does get killed by vehicles. Its aggressive behaviour and proclivity to inhabit buildings makes it more prone to being killed by humans.
Protection: The Milksnake is listed as a "specially protected species" in schedules of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1997. This Act prohibits hunting or trapping of this species, and it cannot be kept in captivity unless special permission is obtained from the Ministy of Natural Resources for the purposes of research or conservation management.
Text Sources: Fischer 1999; MacCulloch 2002
Last Modified Date: June 2008
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