Finding kingsnakes and milksnakes in West Virginia can be difficult!
Most members of the genus Lampropeltis (kingsnakes & milksnakes) spend a lot of their time hidden beneath objects or underground. So while it’s not unheard of, it’s not very common to just stroll past one while walking outside.
Regardless, these non-venomous, mostly docile snakes are fascinating. For example, did you know that kingsnakes EAT venomous snakes? Believe it or not, it’s true!
Today, you’re going to learn about the 2 types of kingsnakes and milksnakes in West Virginia!
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#1. Eastern Milksnake
- Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum
- Adults typically range from 24 to 36 inches in length.
- Coloration is tan or gray with 3 to 5 rows of reddish-brown, black-edged blotches.
- Look for a gray or tan Y- or V-shaped mark near the rear of the head.
Eastern Milksnakes get their unique name from an old myth that they milked cows since they’re commonly found in barns! Obviously, this isn’t true. Their presence inside barns is likely due to the high number of mice, which are some of their favorite prey.
Eastern Milksnake Range Map
A member of the kingsnake family, Eastern Milksnakes occupy a wide variety of habitats in West Virginia, including fields, woodlands, agricultural areas, and rocky outcrops. These beautiful snakes are somewhat secretive and spend much of their time beneath the ground. You may be able to find one underneath rocks, logs, boards, and other debris.
The Eastern Milksnake prefers to feed on small mammals such as mice and shrews. However, they’ll also consume various types of prey, including birds and bird eggs, lizards, snakes, amphibians, fish, earthworms, slugs, insects, and carrion.
Like other individuals in the kingsnake family, they will prey on venomous pit vipers. So how do they combat the venom? Interestingly, their blood contains venom-neutralizing properties!
#2. Eastern Black Kingsnake
- Lampropeltis nigra
- Adults typically range from 35 to 48 inches in length.
- Coloration is black with wide, cream, or yellow speckles, larger and more numerous on the sides.
- Stocky body, head indistinct from the neck, and a yellow or cream underside with black checkering.
- Also frequently referred to as just “Black Kingsnake.”
Eastern Black Kingsnakes occupy various habitats in West Virginia.
They can be found in forests, agricultural lands, thick brush around streams and swamps, floodplain and wetland edges, and even suburban areas!
Eastern Black Kingsnake Range Map
These kingsnakes are very secretive, and they often seek shelter under logs and other debris. They’re primarily active during the daytime but are most active in the morning during the summer.
Being constrictors, they use their strong coils to asphyxiate their prey. Eastern Black Kingsnakes frequently prey on lizards, rodents, birds, turtle eggs, and other snakes, including venomous pit vipers.
Though they’re non-venomous, these kingsnakes may shake their tails if disturbed. In dry leaves, it sounds much like a rattlesnake! If handled, they may also release a foul-smelling musk and strike.
Do you need additional help identifying a snake?
Try this field guide!
Which of these kingsnakes and milksnakes have you seen before in West Virginia?
Leave a comment below!