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Nature Notebook – Eastern Milk Snake

Michigan is home to one venomous rattle snake, the Eastern Massasauga, which shakes its rattle to warn off predators. Many other native snakes, however, will imitate the rattle sound when startled or scared. One such snake is the Eastern Milk Snake, a common, yet not well known species.

I recently saw a young milk snake sunbathing next to one of our water spigots at the Nature Center.  It didn’t take much notice to me and I let it be after a few pictures. My friend (who is afraid of snakes) had a different experience when grabbing hay from his barn to feed his horses. He was startled by a loud rattle and quick movements of a just-as-surprised adult Eastern Milk Snake seeking refuge in the old mouse-filled structure.

Eastern Milk Snakes are non-venomous, and prefer flight rather than confrontation. However, when chased or cornered, an Eastern Milk Snake may vibrate its tail, hiss, strike, or coil tightly in a ball and hide its head.

Other non-venomous Michigan snakes that rattle when scared include the Black Rat Snake, Eastern Fox Snake and Western Fox Snake.