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Kingsnake vs Milk Snake: Are They the Same?

Yes, kingsnakes and milk snakes are the same. Both of them belong to the genus Lampropeltis. The milk snake is one of the four species of kingsnakes.

A red and black striped Kingsnake
Milk Snakes are one of the four types of Kingsnake

Kingsnakes have 45 sub-species, but the milk snake is not one of them. Essentially, kingsnakes have four species which includes the milk snake. The complete scientific name of the milk snake is Lampropeltis triangulum.

King SnakeMilk Snake
Scientific NameLampropeltisLampropeltis triangulum
AppearanceVaried, often with vibrant patterns and colorsWhite, red, and black bands of color
VenomNon-venomousNon-venomous
HabitatPine forests, riverbanks, fields, rocky outcrops, agricultural land Pine forests, riverbanks, fields, rocky outcrops, agricultural land, Often found near human settlements too
Diet An active hunter. Eats mice, rats, other small rodents. An active hunter. Eats mice, rats, other small rodents.

Kingsnake Overview

When people talk about the kingsnake, they typically refer to the black and white banded kingsnake. Its scientific name is Lampropeltis getula californiae, but people call it by its common name California Kingsnake. 

The kingsnake is a colubrid, which means that it has no venom and that it is a constrictor. It is a large snake that can reach up to 210 centimetres. They are also highly adaptable, and they are found in all kinds of environments in California.

Kingsnakes typically have an alternating color of light bands. They reach sexual maturity within three or four years and lay clutches of 6 to 12 eggs every year. Kingsnakes eat many kinds of animals like mammals, birds, eggs, and rodents.

However, kingsnakes are called so because their main diet is other snakes. Kingsnakes are ophiophagous snakes—they eat snakes, including venomous ones like rattlesnakes.

Milk Snake Overview

The milk snake that people often refer to is the one that has a band of red, black, and white. It is also nonvenomous, and a colubrid. Because of the color of the milk snake, it is often mistaken for a copperhead.

Read More: Milk Snake vs Copperhead

The milk snake is identified by the series of the color pattern. The proper series of colors is red, black, and white. If that is the pattern of the snake, it is a milk snake and is therefore not venomous.

The milk snake is one of the most popular breeds for pet owners because they are bright. As a species of the king snake, its name comes from the Greek word that means “shiny shields.”

The milk snake has 24 recognized subspecies. These subspecies are different from the subspecies of the California kingsnake.

Because of the different subspecies, many scientists are proposing that the milk snakes should be split into multiple species.

Milk Snake on someone's hand
Milk snakes are docile and non-venomous, so are often kept as pets

Kingsnake vs Milk Snake Comparison

1. Appearance

Because there are many species of kingsnakes, it’s almost virtually impossible to identify all of them. However, the most common one is the California kingsnake, which has a band of black and white.

If anything, kingsnakes have vibrant patterns comprised of different colors. Some of them have speckles and spots like the Louisiana spotted kingsnake.

On the other hand, milk snakes are typically red, black, and white. However, this does not mean that it is their only color. There are many kinds of milk snakes, but the most popular one is the Eastern milk snake.

The thing is, almost all of the milk snake subspecies have banded coloration. These bands vary from white, red, and black. Male snakes also have alternating bands. Some of them have yellow or orange bands.

One defining characteristic of a milk snake is that it has either a Y or V shape on its neck. This shape has a color that depends on the species of the milk snake.

2. Venom

Both milk snakes and king snakes are non-venomous. Also, both of them seem to have developed an immunity against the venom of other snakes. This is why king snakes can eat venomous snakes like the rattlesnake.

Read More: Crazy Snakes that Eat Rattlesnakes

Both milk snakes and kingsnakes are colubrids. Colubrids refer to snakes that constrict their prey to kill them. Since both of these snakes do not have venom, they do not pose any kind of threat to human beings.

The absence of venom also makes this snake species idea for pets. Although kingsnakes eat snakes in the wild, they can survive on mice. A baby mouse is what many pet owners feed to their king snakes at home.

3. Habitat

The Eastern kingsnake, the one with the white and black bands, is found throughout the eastern United States. that is the reason they are called such.

They live in many kinds of environments including hardwood, and pine forests. People would also find them in bottomlands, wetlands, farmlands, and swamps. Kingsnakes are terrestrial, which means that they mostly live on land.

Milk snakes also live in many types of environments. They live in forest edges, rock hillsides, prairies, marshes, and agricultural areas.

It is not unusual to see milk snakes in suburban areas. What makes these snakes special is that they are not afraid to be close to human beings.

4. Hunting

Kingsnakes, unlike other colubrids, are active hunters. They do not ambush their prey. Instead, what they do is seek out the scent of the prey and hunt it down.

Once the kingsnake gets in close proximity to the prey, it is going to bite it and grab it with its mouth, and then start constricting it. A kingsnake only eats a few times a month, and this diet depends on the size of the snake.

Since the milk snake belongs to the kingsnake family, they are also active hunters. However, milk snakes are nocturnal hunters. Therefore, they rest during the day and actively hunt for food at night.

Milk snakes typically stay in Barnes. They like the cool and dark environment of a barn, and they know that there is enough food because most barns have an infestation of rats or mice.

Their presence in barns is what gave rise to their name. People thought that they liked drinking milk from the cows in the barn. However, this is not true. Snakes do not drink milk.

Summary: Kingsnake vs Milk Snake; Are they The Same?

Yes, kingsnakes and milk snakes are the same. Both the kingsnake and the milk snake belong to the same species. Each one has its subspecies. Because of this complexity, scientists are proposing to separate their species.

Both the kingsnake in the milk snake lived in various environments and are found mainly in the United States. They have no venom, and both of them are colubrids.

Milk snakes and all their subspecies typically have banded patterns. The most common colors are red, white, and black. In addition, they have a Y or V-shaped pattern on their neck. Kingsnakes, on the other hand, can be banded, spotted, or speckled. 

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