Pet stores with snakes
15 - 20 years
Warm side - 85 ℉
Cool side - 75 ℉
* If room temperature falls below 70 degrees at night, a supplemental infrared or ceramic heat fixture may be necessary
No specific requirements
Most king snakes and milk snakes purchased at pet stores and from good breeders are bred and hatched in captivity. In order to help reduce the number of snakes poached from the wild, make sure your pet is indeed captive bred. They are commonly found in the deciduous forest areas, farm areas and rocky hillsides and high in the mountains in much of North America, from as far north as Quebec and as far south as South America.
King snakes and milk snakes are available in a variety of lengths, colors and patterns. Among the patterns are stripes from head to tail, bands running around the circumference of the body and solid colors. Colors can exist as a single color, two-color or tri-color. The skin is smooth and shiny and the body is long and thin. Kings and milks are also famous for their mimicry of venomous coral snakes, which sport a color pattern of black, yellow and red bands, much like some of the king and milk snakes. However, the simple difference between the two is the order of striping: a milk or king snake has striping in which the black bands touch the red bands. In coral snakes, the yellow bands touch the red bands. There are many rhymes made to help you remember the difference between the safe and venomous snakes, such as: red touches yellow, kills a fellow; red touches black, venom lack.
NORMAL BEHAVIOR & INTERACTION:
Milk snakes and king snakes in captivity are crepuscular, which means they are most active at dawn and dusk. They are generally ground dwellers but are also semi-arboreal (will climb trees). King snakes and milk snakes are highly active snakes that, when being held, tend to want to go in several different directions at once. They can be a bit nervous when first being handled. Be sure to support the snake well while holding and do not quickly force the snake in one direction or the other. Guide it gently. Eventually, your milk or king snake will calm down and wrap itself around your hand and arm.
NOTE: All snakes should be housed separately; apart from other snakes, even of the same species. This is especially true for milk snakes and king snakes, as they commonly eat other snakes; even those larger than themselves! Housing snakes together will also create a dominant/submissive hierarchy and will result in one snake becoming stressed to the point of illness, anorexia and possibly death.
Carnivorous; frozen thawed mice or rats (size depending on age and size of snake) DO NOT FEED LIVE PREY (see “Snake Feeding” hand-out). Live prey may bite and injure your snake and consequently make your snake afraid of his own food. Live rodents may also harbor parasites that can be transferred to your snake.
FEEDING & SHEDDING:
Feed in the morning or in the evening. King snakes and milk snakes will eat mice and rats in captivity. In the wild they prefer rodents, birds, other snakes, frogs and lizards. They are constrictors; which means they constrict their prey to suffocate it and then eat it. If you have trouble feeding your corn snake, please refer to our “Snake Feeding” fact sheet for help. A healthy snake will usually eat about every 7-10 days. An adult will eat 1-3 adult mice at each feeding, depending on the size of the snake. Remember it is always easier for a reptile to digest several smaller prey items rather that one large one. Some snake owners find it easier to feed their pet in a separate enclosure, free of bedding and furniture, this way you can be sure your snake eats all its food properly and the snake will not pick up any bedding when grabbing prey and mistakenly ingest it along with the prey.
Defecation usually follows 2-3 days after eating. Do not feed again until snake has defecated from previous feeding. *Do not handle for 24 hours after feeding to prevent regurgitation.
Depending on the snake’s age and size, (young snakes shed more often than older snakes; smaller ones more than larger) he or she may shed 2-6 times a year. The process of shedding takes about 7-10 days. When shedding is about to occur, the belly will become pink and the skin’s overall color will dull. After 5-6 days, it will clear and the snake will soon begin to shed. If the shed does not come off in one piece, it is a sign that its environment is not ideal. In the wild, reptiles have a much easier time with their sheds, as they are generally in a more naturally humid environment and have access to pools or bodies of water in which they can soak at will. Even reptiles from arid areas find humid places to go during the shedding process, such as cold, moist burrows under the sand or caves. The shedding process happens when the snake’s body begins to grow a new layer of skin; that new layer begins to separate from the old and a very thin layer of fluid forms between the two layers. If your pet’s enclosure is too dry, this fluid layer will not form properly, making it difficult for your reptile to shed properly.
To create more humidity, the entire tank can be lightly spray misted twice a day during shedding time. Spray once in the morning and once later in the day. Make sure the later spray dries completely before lights go off for the night. Some snakes may benefit from a ‘moist box’ during shedding time. This can be a ‘Tupperware’-like container (with the cover on) with moist reptile terrarium moss inside. The container should be big enough for the entire snake to be inside with a hole cut in the side just large enough for the snake to come and go at will. Keep the moss moist but not watery, and place the box on the heating pad in the tank.
Snakes benefit greatly from a good deep-water soak at least once a week. A large ‘Tupperware’ container makes a good reptile bathtub. Fill the container deep enough so the entire snake’s body can be submerged under water, but the snake’s head can be out of water. The water should be nice and warm (about 68-70 degrees). Soak your snake for about a half hour at a time.
Supplementation is not normally necessary for snakes as they consume whole prey. If your snake becomes ill, your veterinarian may recommend injecting the prey with supplements that can help the current issue. Do not inject your rodents without consulting your veterinarian first. Over-supplementation is possible and dangerous.