Eastern Milk Snakes

Nature Nugget: Eastern Milk Snakes

Gordon Atkins | Head Naturalist, Camp Au Sable | September 1, 2022 

If you have been to Camp Au Sable in the summer, you know that we keep a few of the local reptiles in our nature center.  We let most of them go within 60 days of being caught so they don’t lose their natural instincts and because they hibernate for the winter. 

One of our “guests” this summer was an Eastern Milk Snake, a common non-venomous snakeand member of the king snake family. They migrate from drier areas where they hibernate in winter to moister areas in the summer. That is why most of the sightings of milk snakes are in spring and fall when they are traveling. They are usually very docile around humans, so they make a great pet at the nature center.   

Here in Michigan, most milk snakes are dark tan and brown in a very beautiful and regular pattern. In Florida they are orange, and in some locations, they are yellow, black and red!  Yikes!That’s the coloration of the very venomous coral snake! In fact, the saying, “red touches yellow, kills a fellow; red touches black is a friend to Jack” does not always work to distinguish these milk snakes from coral snakes.  

Another common counterfeit by milk snakes is their resemblance to pygmy rattlesnakes. I can attest to that! In Florida I once announced, “Oh look, a milk snake!” But when I picked it up, I saw the rattle and realized it was a pygmy rattlesnake! What a counterfeit!

So, where do milk snakes get their name?  Tradition has it that they suck milk from cows!  They DO NOT. Adult milk snakes like dark places and eat mice. They are often found in barns by farmers when they come to milk the cows and that’s where they got their name. 

All these falsehoods and counterfeits associated with the Eastern Milk Snake make me think of Satan who is the master of falsehoods and counterfeits. His first counterfeit and lies began when he appeared in the form of a serpent to Adam and Eve. He has been doing it ever since. Pray that we recognize the workings of Satan, the Devil, so we are not deceived!