Monday, June 2, 2014

A Milk Snake and a Skink

Last Friday I went on a day trip to Adams County to do some hiking. I saw many interesting things, which I'll go over in some other posts, but this blog post is dedicated to one of the snakes I saw along with a lizard.

Eastern Milk Snake
Meet the Milk Snake, Lampropeltis triangulum. Specifically, this is the Eastern subspecies, L. triangulum triangulum. There are currently 24 recognized subspecies of Milk Snake in the world; however, there are ongoing debates about classification of these subspecies, specifically whether they should be classified as separate species or kept as subspecies. The colors of the Eastern Milk Snake are variable and can be darker than this individual to lighter. They are typically anywhere from 24 to 36 inches in length.

Eastern Milk Snake
The Eastern Milk Snake can be found in meadows, forests, and even occasionally in towns. They are a constrictor, meaning they will wrap around their prey (mostly rodents) and squeeze them hard enough to suffocate them. When handling this nicely sized adult, I could definitely notice the strong muscles it possessed as it wrapped its body around my hand.

Eastern Milk Snake
Every time I went to take a photo of him, he would follow the camera lens.
Eastern Milk Snakes typically hunt at night and hide during the day under logs and rocks. The interesting name "milk snake" comes from the old idea that they use to milk cows at night. Since they hunt mice, they would many times be found by farmers in mice-infested barns. These barns would occasionally be cow barns, so for whatever reason the farmers gave rise to the thought that they would milk their cows at night. This is a ridiculous, and false, thought however.

Snake Bite
I've heard some people say Eastern Milk Snakes are docile snakes. After my encounter with this individual, I would question whether that is true. This guy bit me a total of five times while I was taking pictures of him. However, this nonvenomous species has very small teeth and can barely puncture skin making their bites more funny than painful. (There are only three venomous snakes in Ohio. These are the Copperhead, Timber Rattlesnake, and Eastern Massasauga.) This guy did leave a few marks on my skin, but only drew a little bit of blood on one of the five bites. The bites felt more like a sharp pinch than anything.

Sorry for the really bad quality. I couldn't get any closer to this very skittish skink.
Last up we have a skink, a type of lizard. Specifically what skink species? Well, that's debatable. There are three species of skink in Ohio. At first glance, this skink could be a male Common Five-Lined Skink in breeding colors or a Broad-Headed Skink. Both are found in Adams County, but the Five-Lined is a common skink, while Broad-Headed's are very rare in Ohio. This was a larger skink, so it was either a large Five-Lined or a small Broad-Headed. I consulted the Facebook group Herping Ohio and everyone was torn. Obviously a Broad-Headed Skink would be an absolutely amazing find, but the odds are this is a Five-Lined Skink. The features needed to positively ID this species (scale placement and numbers on the head) are impossible to see on this photo, so there's no way to positively ID this. The general consensus in the end was that this is a male Common Five-Lined Skink in breeding coloration, and not a Broad-Headed Skink. Regardless, it was an awesome find for me and is only the second lizard I've found on my own in Ohio, so I was happy to get it.

Thanks for reading! I've got a lot of other posts I'm currently working on; I went from having no material to write about to having more material than I know what to do with! Keep an eye out for those posts. I'll hopefully finish one every few days!


  1. Replies
    1. No, the snake in the photos is an Eastern Milk Snake. Corn Snakes don't make it up into Ohio.