Common Name: Honduran Milksnake
Latin name: Lampropeltis triangulum Hondurensis
Locality: Nicaragua, Honduras
Size: Hatchling milksnakes range in size from 12-15 inches in length. Adult milksnakes reach anywhere from 3 to 5 feet.
Life span: Usually 12 - 15 years, though they can live as long as 20 years or longer.
Honduran milksnakes are one of the most rapidly expanding species of snakes in the reptile trade today. The reason for this is the rapidly growing number of color morphs, ranging from brilliant oranges and reds to black and gray or pure white. Whatever color you prefer, there is a milksnake for everybody. Although milksnakes have a reputation of being somewhat feisty as babies, we have found that most of our hondurans are among the friendliest and most handleable snakes we own.
Milksnakes are relatively small snakes, and as such, they do not require large enclosures. A baby milksnake can happily live in a ten gallon aquarium or enclosure of similar size. We keep baby milksnakes in plastic shoeboxes with holes punched in the side for ventilation. For adult milksnakes, we recommend a twenty gallon long or thirty gallon aquarium with locking lid or a plastic sweater box. You need to remember that one of the most important things in choosing a home for your snake is that they are very strong snakes and good climbers, and you must choose a cage with a secure lid.
For heating, we recommend under tank heaters. These can be found at most pet stores and provide plenty of heat for a milksnake. If you have a cage with a screen lid, you can also use an incandescent light as a source of heat. The enclosure should be kept at a temperature of around 80-85 degrees during the day and 70-75 at night. Unlike lizards, milksnakes do not require any special lighting. You may use lighting to make the enclosure more attractive, but keep in mind that milksnakes are nocturnal snakes. They can be bothered by the light and may hide if you use a bright light on their cage.
For substrate, we recommend aspen bedding. Pine bedding is also acceptable, but you must NEVER use cedar bedding, as this will cause respiratory disease and even death in reptiles. Some people may prefer to use paper towels or newspaper. While not as attractive, these substrates make cage cleaning easier.
You also need to include a water bowl full of fresh water. The snakes like to soak in their water when they are shedding, so you should use a water bowl large enough for them to climb into. The water bowl should be heavy to avoid tipping. milksnakes also need a place to hide in order to feel secure. This can be anything from a toilet paper or paper towel tube to an empty macaroni box, or you can buy more decorative hides from a pet store.
Milksnakes eat other snakes in the wild, and they will sometimes do the same in captivity. Although we have not personally had this happen to us, we know of other breeders and snake owners who have lost snakes this way. For this reason, you should use great care if housing more than one snake in the same cage. Only house snakes together which are similar in size. A snake is not likely to try to eat something it does not believe it can handle. Also, we recommend separating them during feeding. If this is not possible, make sure you keep an eye on them until they have all finished their meals. Separating two snakes who have started swallowing the same mouse is not very much fun!
Cage cleaning is important to the health of your snake. You should spot clean soiled bedding regularly. Change the bedding when it needs it. Let your eyes and nose be the judge. The bedding should be changed at least once a month to avoid buildup of bacteria.
Milksnakes are rarely picky eaters if they have the proper heat and enclosure. Hatchling milksnakes begin eating pinky mice, and progress up to fuzzy mice, hoppers, and eventually adult mice or even small rats. A good rule of thumb is to feed the snake a food item that is about one and a half times the width of its head.
When you purchase your snake, you should always ask if the snake is eating live or frozen, thawed mice. Which one you choose to feed your snake depends on your personal preference as well as the preference of your snake. If you feed your snake live food, be sure to watch and make sure that the mouse does not bite the snake. Never feed captive snakes food captured from the wild. Wild animals possess potentially harmful internal parasites which can potentially kill your snake or at least cause it great harm.
Milksnakes can be fed two times a week, but once is usually enough. How often you feed them depends on how fast you want them to grow. The more you feed them, the faster they will grow. However, if you feed them too much, they may overeat and regurgitate their food. If you are housing multiple milksnakes together, be sure to watch them while you feed them, or feed them separately if possible. Milksnakes are aggressive feeders, and if two snakes begin to swallow the same mouse it is difficult to separate them. Make sure that the snake always has fresh water available. Also remember that your snake might regurgitate if it does not have a warm enough cage or if it is handled too soon after it eats. We recommend waiting 2 days after the snake eats before you handle it to allow for proper digestion.
One of the most commonly encountered problems is regurgitation. There are a number of causes for this. One cause is that the cage is not warm enough. The food item can rot in the stomach of the snake, and this causes the snake to regurgitate. Another common cause is that the food was too big. Milksnakes sometimes have appetites that are bigger than their stomachs. These problems can be solved by turning up the heat and feeding smaller mice.
Although not very common with milksnakes, sometimes a snake will refuse to eat. Once again this can be caused by food that is too large or a cage that is not warm enough. Often snakes will not eat while they are shedding. Another reason for a milksnake not eating is that it is either in a mating cycle or a brumation cycle. Males especially will stop eating after coming out of brumation. Females will stop eating if they are gravid. Both males and females may stop feeding if there has been a steady drop in the average temperature in their cage, or if there has been a progressive decline in day length. This is especially true for wild caught milksnakes. Also remember that it is not unusual for a snake to refuse food while it is adjusting to a new home. One suggestion I have is to isolate the problem feeder in a small paper bag with a mouse. Often the privacy and isolation will make the snake comfortable enough to eat. If it still does not eat, you can slice the head of a pinky open, exposing the brain. The scent of the brain matter will sometimes cause the snake to eat as well. If the snake appears otherwise healthy, I would not worry about a snake that has not eaten for a month. I would probably not start worrying until about two months. If the snake is still not eating or is beginning to show other signs of poor health, consult a veterinarian that is experienced in the care of reptiles.
Baby milksnakes are active snakes, but with regular handling, they become very "friendly". An adult that hasn't been handled much will usually tame down somewhat although probably not as fast. If you only open the cage to feed the snake, he will learn to associate the opening of his cage with feeding, and when you try to pick him up, he may think you are food and bite you. However, regular handling of your snake between meals will prevent the development of this feeding response. When picking up a milksnake you want to be gentle but firm. A small snake or a baby can be picked up with one hand in the middle of the snake's body. A larger one should be supported with both hands. Don't just pick up your snake by one end while letting the other end dangle. If the snake feels unsupported it might thrash around and injure itself. Let your snake slither through your fingers, back and forth between your hands. Just keep letting him crawl around. He may be fast at first but once he figures out that you don't want to hurt him or eat him he will calm down. Take good care of your milksnake and you will have a wonderful pet to enjoy for many years.
More Milksnake Pictures