Nelsons milk snake: care, diet, and habitat

Nelsons milk snake

Native to North America, Nelson’s milk snake is a fascinating reptile known for its distinctive appearance and docile nature. This species belongs to the colubrid family, and it is widely popular among snake enthusiasts due to its vivid colors and easy care requirements.

With vibrant red, black, and yellow bands, Nelson’s milk snakes resemble the venomous coral snake, featuring the same “red touches yellow, kill a fellow” pattern. However, these snakes are completely non-venomous and pose no threat to humans. In fact, their gentle temperament makes them ideal pets for reptile lovers seeking an exciting and low-maintenance companion.

About Nelsons Milk Snake

The Nelsons milk snake can grow to be around 2 to 3 feet long, making it a relatively small snake compared to other constrictor species. It has a slender body and smooth scales, which allow it to move with ease through its natural habitat. The color pattern of the Nelsons milk snake consists of red, black, and yellow bands that run the length of its body. The red and black bands are usually separated by a thin yellow band, which gives the snake its distinctive and eye-catching appearance.

This species of snake can be found in various habitats, including forests, grasslands, and rocky areas. It is a nocturnal creature, meaning it is most active during the night. During the day, Nelsons milk snakes can often be found hiding in underground burrows or beneath rocks and logs. They are solitary animals and prefer to live alone rather than in groups.

In terms of diet, Nelsons milk snakes are carnivorous and primarily feed on small rodents such as mice and rats. They are constrictors, meaning they will squeeze their prey to subdue and kill it before consuming it whole. They have a slow metabolic rate and do not require frequent feedings. Adult Nelsons milk snakes may only need to be fed every 1-2 weeks, while younger snakes may require slightly more frequent feedings.

Care for Nelsons Milk Snake


Inside the enclosure, provide a few hiding spots using rocks, logs, or commercial reptile hides. These hiding spots will help the snake feel secure and reduce stress. Additionally, include some branches or other climbing structures for the snake to exercise its natural behavior.

Temperature and Lighting

Nelsons Milk Snakes require a temperature gradient within their enclosure. Provide a warm side with a temperature range of 85-90°F (29-32°C) and a cooler side with a temperature range of 75-80°F (24-27°C). This temperature gradient allows the snake to regulate its body temperature by moving between the warmer and cooler areas.

Substrate and Hydration

Choose a suitable substrate for the enclosure that allows easy cleaning and provides adequate moisture. Aspen bedding, cypress mulch, or paper towels are commonly used substrates for Nelsons Milk Snakes. Avoid substrates that can cause digestive issues, such as sand or cedar wood shavings.

Provide a large water dish inside the enclosure to ensure the snake has access to clean, fresh water at all times. Nelsons Milk Snakes, like other snakes, do not typically drink directly from the water dish but prefer to soak in it to fulfill their hydration needs.

Aspect Requirement
Enclosure Size Large enough for the adult snake to stretch out
Temperature 85-90°F (29-32°C) warm side, 75-80°F (24-27°C) cool side
UVB Lighting 10-12 hours a day
Substrate Aspen bedding, cypress mulch, or paper towels
Water Clean, fresh water available at all times

By providing the right habitat, appropriate temperature and lighting, suitable substrate, and adequate hydration, you can ensure the proper care and well-being of your beloved Nelsons Milk Snake.

Diet of Nelsons Milk Snake

The diet of Nelsons milk snake consists primarily of small rodents such as mice and rats. These snakes are constrictors, meaning that they subdue their prey by coiling their bodies around them and squeezing tightly until they suffocate. Once the prey is dead, the snake will then swallow it whole, using its flexible jaws.

In addition to providing the appropriate prey, it is also important to ensure that the snake has access to fresh water at all times. The water should be clean and changed regularly to prevent bacteria growth. Some snakes, including Nelsons milk snakes, may also benefit from occasional supplementation with calcium and vitamin D3 to support their bone health.

Habitat for Nelsons Milk Snake

Nelsons Milk Snake is a unique species that is native to North America. It can be found in a variety of habitats, from grasslands and forests to deserts and rocky areas. This snake prefers areas with moderate temperatures and ample hiding spots.

Temperature: Nelsons Milk Snake requires a temperature gradient within its habitat. The ambient temperature should range from 75-85°F (24-29°C) during the day, with a cooler spot of around 70°F (21°C) for the snake to retreat to. A heating pad or heat lamp can be used to maintain the desired temperature.

Substrate: A suitable substrate for Nelsons Milk Snake would be a mixture of aspen bedding, cypress mulch, or reptile carpet. This provides a comfortable surface for the snake to crawl on and allows for easy clean-up.

Hideouts: Nelsons Milk Snake requires hiding spots to feel secure. Provide at least two hiding spots, one on the warm side and one on the cool side of the enclosure. These can be in the form of commercially available snake hides or natural objects such as rocks, logs, or branches.

Lighting and Humidity:

Nelsons Milk Snake does not require special lighting, but a regular day-night cycle is beneficial for their overall well-being. Natural light from a nearby window or artificial lighting on a 12-hour cycle can be provided.

Note: It is essential to keep the enclosure clean and maintain proper hygiene. Regularly remove any uneaten food, feces, or shed skin to avoid the buildup of bacteria.

Handling Nelsons Milk Snake

Handling Nelsons Milk Snake

Preparing for Handling

When handling a Nelsons milk snake, it is crucial to approach the snake calmly and confidently. Sudden movements or loud noises can startle the snake and may lead to defensive behavior.

Wash your hands thoroughly before handling the snake to remove any scents that might alarm or confuse the snake. Avoid wearing strong fragrances or lotions that may also interfere with the snake’s sense of smell.

Use a snake hook or gentle hands to pick up the snake. Avoid grabbing or squeezing the snake tightly, as this can cause stress and injury. Instead, support the snake’s body and allow it to move freely over your hands.

Handling Techniques

Always support the snake’s body, especially the midsection, to prevent any accidental falls or injuries. Avoid handling the snake for extended periods, as this can cause stress and may result in defensive behavior.

During the handling process, closely observe the snake for any signs of distress or discomfort. If the snake starts to exhibit defensive behaviors, such as hissing, coiling, or flicking its tongue rapidly, gently and slowly return it to its enclosure to avoid further stress.

Safety Considerations

If you are unsure about handling the snake or have limited experience, it is advisable to seek guidance from a knowledgeable reptile expert or herpetologist. They can provide valuable tips and ensure the safety of both you and the snake.

Remember, proper handling techniques and respect for the snake’s natural behaviors are essential for maintaining a healthy and stress-free relationship with a Nelsons milk snake.

Common Diseases of Nelsons Milk Snake

1. Respiratory Infections: Respiratory infections are a common problem in milk snakes, including Nelsons milk snakes. These infections can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi, and can manifest as coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing, and nasal discharge. To prevent respiratory infections, it is crucial to maintain proper temperature and humidity levels in the snake’s enclosure, as well as to provide a clean and sanitary environment.

2. Parasites: Like many reptiles, Nelsons milk snakes can be affected by internal and external parasites. Internal parasites, such as worms and protozoa, can cause gastrointestinal disturbances and poor overall health. External parasites, such as mites and ticks, can cause irritation and discomfort. Regular fecal analysis and routine veterinary check-ups can help identify and treat parasitic infestations.

4. Scale Rot: Scale rot is a bacterial infection that affects the scales and skin of snakes. It typically occurs when the snake’s enclosure is damp or dirty, leading to bacterial growth. Proper enclosure maintenance, including regular cleaning and substrate changes, can help prevent scale rot.

5. Nutritional Deficiencies: Improper diet and inadequate supplementation can result in nutritional deficiencies in Nelsons milk snakes. This can lead to various health problems, such as metabolic bone disease and weakened immune system. It is crucial to provide a balanced diet, including appropriate prey items and vitamin/mineral supplements, to ensure the snake receives all necessary nutrients.

Breeding Nelsons Milk Snake


The male should be introduced to the female snake’s enclosure, rather than vice versa, as this can help reduce stress and aggression. It is also important to provide the snakes with enough space, hiding spots, and temperature gradients to ensure their comfort during the breeding process.

Egg Laying

It is crucial to keep the nesting area clean and free from any disturbances during this time. The eggs should be carefully inspected and removed if any appear to be infertile or damaged.


Once the eggs have been laid, they will need to be incubated at a specific temperature and humidity level to ensure their successful development. There are various methods of incubating snake eggs, such as using an incubator or creating a makeshift incubation setup using a plastic container filled with a suitable substrate.



The hatchlings should be provided with a suitable enclosure that includes hiding spots, temperature gradients, and a small water dish. They should be fed with appropriately sized prey items and closely monitored for their growth and overall health.

Breeding Nelsons Milk Snakes requires careful planning and attention to detail. It involves introducing a healthy male and female snake, providing appropriate nesting conditions for the female, incubating the eggs at a specific temperature and humidity, and ensuring the successful hatching and care of the hatchlings. With proper care and patience, breeding Nelsons Milk Snakes can be a fascinating and rewarding experience.

Fun Facts about Nelsons Milk Snake

1. Colorful and Mimicry:

2. Range and Habitat:

The milk snake is native to North America, mainly found in the United States and parts of Mexico. They prefer diverse habitats, including forests, grasslands, and rocky areas. These adaptable snakes can also be found in barns and abandoned buildings.

3. Diet and Feeding Habits:

Nelsons milk snakes are carnivorous and feed on a variety of small mammals, birds, reptiles, and their eggs. They are constrictors, meaning they overpower their prey by coiling around them and suffocating them. After capturing their prey, they swallow it whole.

4. Behavior and Defense Mechanisms:

4. Behavior and Defense Mechanisms:

5. Life Cycle and Reproduction:

Nelsons milk snakes are oviparous, meaning they lay eggs. They usually lay around 5-20 eggs in concealed locations such as rotting logs or deserted animal burrows. The eggs take approximately 60-75 days to hatch, and the young snakes are fully independent upon hatching.

6. Longevity and Size:

These snakes can live up to 20 years in captivity with proper care, while their lifespan in the wild is about 10-15 years. Nelsons milk snakes typically grow to an average length of 2-3 feet, although some individuals can reach up to 4-5 feet.

7. Importance in Controlling Rodent Population:

Like many species of snakes, Nelsons milk snakes play a vital role in the ecosystem by controlling the population of rodents. They help to keep the numbers of rats and mice in check, reducing the spread of diseases and preventing crop damage.

Overall, the Nelsons milk snake is an intriguing and beneficial reptile, with its vibrant colors and interesting behaviors. It serves as a reminder of the diversity and beauty of the natural world.