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Fast Fact: Milksnakes

Updated: Dec 29, 2023

Meet our Illinois state snake, the eastern milksnake. These snakes are common across the northern third of Illinois and typically lives in fields and woodlands. They are brownish in color with large blotches bordered in black running the length of their bodies. They can grow to be between 24 inches and 43 inches long.

An eastern milksnake.
(Photo via Shutterstock)

So why are they called milksnakes? They definitely don’t drink milk, but long ago they were thought too. Because they were often found in barns, farmers thought they may be drinking milk from their cows’ udders, hurting their milk production. This wasn’t so, however. Milksnakes aren’t interested in milk at all. Like all snakes, milksnakes are carnivores. They eat amphibians, reptiles, birds, fish and small mammals.

The eastern milksnake is one of two milksnake species that live in Illinois. The other is the red milksnake, which lives in the south two-thirds of the state. It is mostly reddish-orange in color and has a banded appearance.


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