Species Profile

Eastern Milksnake

Scientific Name: Lampropeltis triangulum
Other/Previous Names: Milksnake
Taxonomy Group: Reptiles
COSEWIC Range: Ontario, Quebec
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: May 2014
COSEWIC Status: Special Concern
COSEWIC Status Criteria:
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: This large, non-venomous snake continues to be relatively widespread in southern Ontario and southwestern Quebec, but has suffered localized declines concurrent with expanding urbanization and intensification of agriculture. The life history characteristics of this species, including late maturation, longevity (up to 20 years), and relatively low reproductive potential, increase its vulnerability to various anthropogenic threats, including habitat loss, persecution and collection for the pet trade.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Special Concern in May 2002. Status re-examined and confirmed in May 2014.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Special Concern
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2005-01-12

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

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Quick Links: | Taxonomy | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Eastern Milksnake

Eastern Milksnake Photo 1
Eastern Milksnake Photo 2

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Taxonomy

There are 25 subspecies of the Milksnake found in North America. Only one subspecies, the Eastern Milksnake, has a distribution that extends northward into Canada.

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Description

The Eastern Milksnake, Lampropeltis triangulum is tan, brown or grey and has large, black-outlined, red or brown dorsal blotches that fade as the snake ages. The maximum total length recorded for this species is 132 cm, although normal lengths range from 60-90 cm. The Eastern Milksnake is often found in barns and stables where it readily finds small mammals, its predominant prey. (Updated 2017/06/06)

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Distribution and Population

The global range of the Eastern Milksnake is confined to southeastern Canada and eastern U.S. In Canada, the Eastern Milksnake is mostly found in the Great Lakes / St. Lawrence and Carolinian regions within southern and central Ontario and southwestern Quebec. In Ontario, the Milksnake ranges from southwestern Ontario to Lake Nipissing, and in Quebec, the species occurs mostly within the Outaouais, Montérégie and Montréal regions. Although the species is widespread, there is evidence that Eastern Milksnake localities have been lost from large urban centres and regions with intensive agriculture. (Updated 2017/06/06)

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Habitat

Eastern Milksnakes are habitat generalists but prefer open habitats, including rock outcrops and meadows. They require suitable microhabitats for egg laying, hibernation and thermoregulation. Eastern Milksnakes are well known for occupying barns, sheds and houses in rural landscapes. At the landscape scale, the abundance of Eastern Milksnakes appears to correlate with regions where forest cover is relatively high. Eastern Milksnake habitat in portions of southwestern Ontario and parts of southwestern Quebec (e.g. urban regions and areas subject to intensive agriculture) is fragmented and consists of relatively small, natural areas. (Updated 2017/06/06)

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Biology

In Canada, Eastern Milksnakes emerge from hibernacula in early spring (April-May), when the mating season begins. Mating may last several weeks. In early summer, a clutch of approximately 10 eggs is laid in rotting logs, under boards, or in other substrate with suitable cover. Hatchlings emerge from August to September. When threatened, the Eastern Milksnake will often mimic a rattlesnake by vibrating its tail against the substrate or surrounding vegetation, but unlike rattlesnakes, Eastern Milksnakes are not venomous and are harmless to humans. (Updated 2017/06/06)

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Threats

Major threats to the persistence of the Eastern Milksnake in Canada are habitat loss from the expansion of urban and cultivated areas, road mortality, intentional killing, collection for the pet trade, and unnaturally high mortality from pets and other predators. (Updated 2017/06/06)

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Protection

Federal Protection

More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

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Recovery Progress and Activities

Summary of Research/Monitoring Public surveys and video taping are being used to analyze whether recently erected signs are having a positive effect on drivers by alerting them to the need for caution to avoid running over snakes crossing the road. Summary of Recovery Activities Alderville First Nations is promoting conservation of tallgrass prairie habitat by displaying information on species at risk occurring in tallgrass prairie habitat, hosting audio/visual presentations, and speaking with local residents, schools, and interest groups. Site inspections also are underway to educate private property owners about tallgrass prairie habitat and species at risk like the Milksnake. Posters developed by the Toronto Zoo and education programs such as the Georgian Bay Reptile Awareness Program help educate the public on snakes. URLs Ontario’s Biodiversity: Species at Risk:http://www.rom.on.ca/ontario/risk.php?doc_type=fact&lang=&id=291

Documents

PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

17 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Eastern Milksnake Lampropeltis triangulum in Canada (2015-01-06)

    The Eastern Milksnake, Lampropeltis triangulum is tan, brown or grey and has large, black-outlined, red or brown dorsal blotches that fade as the snake ages. The maximum total length recorded for this species is 132 cm, although normal lengths range from 60-90 cm. The Eastern Milksnake is often found in barns and stables where it readily finds small mammals, its predominant prey.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Eastern Milksnake (2015-01-13)

    This large, non-venomous snake continues to be relatively widespread in southern Ontario and southwestern Quebec, but has suffered localized declines concurrent with expanding urbanization and intensification of agriculture. The life history characteristics of this species, including late maturation, longevity (up to 20 years), and relatively low reproductive potential, increase its vulnerability to various anthropogenic threats, including habitat loss, persecution and collection for the pet trade.
  • Response Statements - Milksnake (2004-04-21)

    A response statement is a communications document that identifies how the Minister of the Environment intends to respond to the assessment of a wildlife species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The document provides a start to the listing and recovery process for those species identified as being at risk, and provides timelines for action to the extent possible.

Action Plans

  • Multi-species Action Plan for Bruce Peninsula National Park and Fathom Five National Marine Park of Canada (2016-11-22)

    Bruce Peninsula National Park (BPNP) and Fathom Five National Marine Park (FFNMP) lie at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula which separates Georgian Bay from Lake Huron. The peninsula is 90 km in length and its most prominent feature is the Niagara Escarpment which runs along the entire eastern edge. Within BPNP, the escarpment forms the Georgian Bay shoreline and is recognized as part of the core area of the Niagara Escarpment UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.  BPNP was established by the federal government in 1987 to protect a representative example of the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Lowlands natural region. Because of the fragmented nature of the park properties, many of the stresses on the park’s ecosystem originate from outside its boundaries. For this reason, First Nations, local residents, non-governmental organizations, and other groups and land users play an important role in managing, restoring, and protecting the northern Bruce ecosystem. 
  • Multi-species Action Plan for Georgian Bay Islands National Park of Canada (2016-11-22)

    Georgian Bay Islands National Park (GBINP) is located in southeastern Georgian Bay in the heart of Ontario’s cottage country. Georgian Bay is home to the world’s largest freshwater archipelago, the 30,000 Islands, and the park acts as a southern gateway into this area. Comprising 63 dispersed islands and shoals the total area of the park is 14 km2 from the Centennial Group in the south to McQuade Island 50 kilometres northward. Situated just 150 km from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), GBINP is within a half-day’s drive for millions of Canadians. Created in 1929 it is Canada’s smallest national park straddling two natural regions and forms a core protected area of the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve. The park lies on the edge of the Canadian Shield and is home to both northern and southern plants and animals. The islands are renowned for the variety of reptiles and amphibians they support. The park also has significant cultural value, having been occupied continuously for over 5,500 years. Maintenance and restoration of ecological integrity is the first priority of national parks (Canada National Parks Act s.8(2)). Species at risk, their residences, and their habitat are therefore protected by existing national park regulations and management regimes. In addition, the Species at Risk Act (SARA) prohibitions protecting individuals and residences apply automatically when a species is listed, and all critical habitat in national parks and national historic sites must be legally protected within 180 days of being identified.
  • Multi-species Action Plan for Point Pelee National Park of Canada and Niagara National Historic Sites of Canada (2016-07-05)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Point Pelee National Park of Canada and the Niagara National Historic Sites of Canada applies to lands and waters occurring within the boundaries of the two sites: Point Pelee National Park of Canada (PPNP) and the Niagara National Historic Sites of Canada (NNHS). The NNHS is being used as a term to collectively refer to two locations in the Niagara region that consist of three National Historic Sites: Fort George National Historic Site, Battlefield of Fort George National Historic Site, and Butler’s Barracks National Historic Sites of Canada. The plan meets the requirements for action plans set out in the Species At Risk Act (SARA s.47) for species requiring an action plan and that regularly occur in these sites. Measures described in this plan will also provide benefits for other species of conservation concern that regularly occur at PPNP and at NNHS.
  • Multi-species Action Plan for Rouge National Urban Park of Canada (2021-10-07)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Rouge National Urban Park of Canada applies to all federally owned lands and waters managed by Parks Canada in Rouge National Urban Park (RNUP), including Bead Hill National Historic Site. To the extent possible, it has been prepared in cooperation with Environment and Climate Change Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the province of Ontario, the Rouge National Urban Park First Nations Advisory Circle, and environmental non-government organizations as per section 48(1) of SARA. The plan meets the requirements for action plans set out in the Species at Risk Act (SARA s.47) for species requiring an action plan and that regularly occur at this site. Measures described in this plan will also provide benefits for other species of conservation concern that regularly occur at RNUP. In light of the current Covid-19 pandemic, the 60-day public comment period on the proposed Multi-species Action Plan for Rouge National Urban Park of Canada has been extended to 90 days to provide sufficient time for feedback.
  • Multi-species Action Plan for Thousand Islands National Park of Canada (2016-03-29)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Thousand Islands National Park of Canada is a Species At Risk Act action plan (SARA s.47) for four species: American Water-willow (Justicia americana), Butternut (Juglans cinerea), Deerberry (Vaccinium stamineum), and Pugnose Shiner (Notropis anogenus). The plan also outlines measures to monitor and manage 30 other species of conservation concern that regularly occur in the park. This plan applies only to lands and waters occurring within the boundaries of Thousand Islands National Park of Canada.

Management Plans

  • Management Plan for the Milksnake (Lampropeltis triangulum) in Canada (2015-07-31)

    The Minister of the Environment and the Minister responsible for the Parks Canada Agency are the competent ministers under SARA for the Milksnake and have prepared this management plan as per section 65 of SARA. To the extent possible it has been prepared in cooperation with the Government of Ontario.

Orders

  • Order Acknowledging Receipt of the Assessments Done Pursuant to Subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act (2004-04-21)

    This Order acknowledges receipt by the Governor in Council of the assessments of the status of wildlife species done pursuant to subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The purpose of SARA is to prevent wildlife species from being extirpated or becoming extinct, to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity and to manage species of special concern to prevent them from becoming endangered or threatened.
  • Order Amending Schedules 1 to 3 to the Species at Risk Act (volume 139, number 2, 2005) (2005-01-12)

    Schedule 1, the List of Wildlife Species at Risk of the Species at Risk Act (SARA), is amended by Order of the Governor in Council (GIC), on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, by the addition of 73 species. This Order is based on scientific assessments by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and follows consultations with provincial and territorial governments, Aboriginal peoples, stakeholders and the public, and analysis of costs and benefits to Canadians.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2013-2014 (2014-10-15)

    Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to "assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species". COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings in this reporting year (October, 2013 to September, 2014) from November 24 to November 29, 2013 and from April 27 to May 2, 2014. During the current reporting period, COSEWIC assessed the status or reviewed the classification of 56 wildlife species. The wildlife species assessment results for the 2012-2013 reporting period include the following: Extinct: 0 Extirpated: 0 Endangered: 23 Threatened: 12 Special Concern: 20 Data Deficient: 0 Not at Risk: 1 Total: 56 Of the 56 wildlife species examined, COSEWIC reviewed the classification of 40 that had been previously assessed. The review of classification for 25 of those wildlife species resulted in a confirmation of the same status as the previous assessment.

Permits and Related Agreements

  • Explanation for issuing permit(#29), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2006-06-30)

    To conduct a Species at Risk snake survey within this area to assist the federal government client in determining the presence/absence of SAR species within the study area. The survey methodology will involve: 1. Education of personnel to identify and report specimens as observed; 2. To conduct an ongoing incidental specimen observation survey; 3. To conduct a detailled site search within likely habitat areas; 4. Specimens to be live captured, examined, and released in situ. Specimens not to be injured, killed or removed; and 5. PIT tagging of captured Eastern Hog-nosed snakes.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#SARA-OR-2007-0055), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2007-05-18)

    To conduct a Species at Risk snake survey within this area to assist the federal government client in determining the presence/absence of SAR species within the study area. The survey methodology will involve: 1. Education of personnel to identify and report specimens as observed; 2. To conduct an ongoing incidental specimen observation survey; 3. To conduct a detailled site search within likely habitat areas; 4. Specimens to be live captured, examined, and released in situ. Specimens not to be injured, killed or removed; and 5. PIT tagging of captured Eastern Hog-nosed snakes.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act : Terrestrial Species - January 2015 (2015-01-13)

    The Government of Canada is committed to preventing the disappearance of wildlife species at risk from our lands. As part of its strategy for realizing that commitment, on June 5, 2003, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species provided for under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Extirpated, Endangered and Threatened species on Schedule 1 benefit from the protection of prohibitions and recovery planning requirements under SARA. Special Concern species benefit from its management planning requirements. Schedule 1 has grown from the original 233 to 521 wildlife species at risk. Please submit your comments byApril 15, 2015, for terrestrial species undergoing normal consultationsand byOctober 15, 2015, for terrestrial species undergoing extended consultations.For a description of the consultation paths these species will undergo, please see:Species at Risk Public Registry website
  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species Under the Species At Risk Act: March 2004 (2004-03-03)

    The Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003 as part of its strategy for the protection of wildlife species at risk. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, hereinafter referred to as the 'SARA list'. Canadians are invited to comment on whether all or some of the species included in this document should be added to the SARA list.

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada's Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan (2016-07-06)

    Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan identifies the species for which recovery documents will be posted each fiscal year starting in 2014-2015. Posting this three year plan on the Species at Risk Public Registry is intended to provide transparency to partners, stakeholders, and the public about Environment and Climate Change Canada’s plan to develop and post these proposed recovery strategies and management plans. However, both the number of documents and the particular species that are posted in a given year may change slightly due to a variety of circumstances. Last update November 25, 2021
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