Lampropeltis triangulum - (Lacepède, 1789)
Milksnake
Other English Common Names: Milk Snake, milksnake
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Lampropeltis triangulum (Lacépède, 1789) (TSN 174187)
French Common Names: couleuvre tachetée
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.960858
Element Code: ARADB19080
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Reptiles - Snakes
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Reptilia Squamata Colubridae Lampropeltis
Genus Size: C - Small genus (6-20 species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Ruane, S., Bryson, R.W. Jr., Pyron, R.A., and F.T. Burbrink. 2014. Coalescent Species delimitation in Milksnakes (genus Lampropeltis) and impacts on phylogenetic comparative analyses. Systematic Biology 63(2):231-250.
Concept Reference Code: A14RUA01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Lampropeltis triangulum
Taxonomic Comments: This species exhibits considerable geographic variation in morphology, and it is suspected that this variation reflects the existence of multiple species (e.g., Savage 2002). Further study is warranted.

Ruane et al. (2014) divided L. triangulum (sensu lato) into multiple species and restricted the range of L. triangulum to northeastern North America.

Collins (1991) proposed that subspecies taylori be recognized as a distinct species but presented no supporting data (see also Dowling 1993); taylori intergrades morphologically with two adjacent subspecies and does not appear to be a distinct entity (Williams 1988, Roth and Smith 1990).

Armstrong et al. (2001) examined populations of subspecies syspila and elapsoides in western Kentucky and adjacent Tennessee and concluded that the two taxa exist in sympatry with minimal, if any, gene flow between the populations.

Based on multiple nuclear and mitochondrial genes, Pyron and Burbrink (2009) determined that Lampropeltis elapsoides is well differentiated from L. triangulum. Crother et al. (in Crother 2012) listed the two taxa as distinct species. Distributional details in contact zones with other members of the L. triangulum complex have not been described.

The correct year of publication of the original description is 1789 (not 1788 as commonly cited).
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 13Apr2016
Global Status Last Changed: 30Oct1996
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by calculator
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Nation: United States
National Status: N5 (13Apr2016)
Nation: Canada
National Status: N3 (08Aug2017)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Alabama (S5), Connecticut (S5), Delaware (S1), District of Columbia (S1), Georgia (S4), Illinois (SNR), Indiana (SNR), Iowa (S4), Kentucky (S5), Louisiana (S4), Maine (S5), Maryland (S5), Massachusetts (S5), Michigan (S5), Minnesota (S4), Mississippi (SNR), Missouri (SNR), New Hampshire (S5), New Jersey (SNR), New York (S5), North Carolina (S3), Ohio (SNR), Pennsylvania (S5), Rhode Island (S5), Tennessee (S5), Vermont (S5), Virginia (S5), West Virginia (S5), Wisconsin (S4)
Canada Ontario (S3), Quebec (S3)

Other Statuses

Canadian Species at Risk Act (SARA) Schedule 1/Annexe 1 Status: SC (12Jan2005)
Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC): Special Concern (02May2014)
Comments on COSEWIC: 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.

Designated Special Concern in May 2002. Status re-examined and confirmed in May 2014.

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: 200,000-2,500,000 square km (about 80,000-1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Range extends from southern Minnesota, Michigan, southern Ontario, southern Quebec, and southern Maine southward to North Carolina and extreme northern Alabama and Georgia; also Mississippi, possibly Arkansas north of the Arkansas, and northeastern Louisiana (specifically La Salle Parish) (Ruane et al. 2014). The range meets that of L. elapsoides in the southeastern United States.

Area of Occupancy: >12,500 4-km2 grid cells
Area of Occupancy Comments: Area of occupancy is unknown but very large.

Number of Occurrences:  
Number of Occurrences Comments: This species is represented by a very large number of occurrences (subpopulations) and locations (asdefined by IUCN).

Population Size: >1,000,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Total adult population size is unknown but certainly exceeds 100,000 and probably exceeds 1,000,000.

Overall Threat Impact: Low
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Intensive agricultural development and urbanization have caused localized declines, and collectors probably have depleted accessible populations near roads, but in most areas this snake is not threatened by these factors. This species is vulnerable to snake fungal disease, but the scope, severity, and population impact of this disease on L. triangulum are unknown.

Short-term Trend: Relatively Stable (<=10% change)
Short-term Trend Comments: Trend over the past 10 years or three generations is uncertain, but extent of occurrence, area of occupancy, number of subpopulations, and population size probably have been relatively stable.

Long-term Trend: Decline of <30% to relatively stable
Long-term Trend Comments: Localized declines undoubtedly have occurred, but the overall extent of occurrence, area of occupancy, number of subpopulations, and population size probably have not decreased by more than 25 percent compared to the historical situation.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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Global Range: (200,000-2,500,000 square km (about 80,000-1,000,000 square miles)) Range extends from southern Minnesota, Michigan, southern Ontario, southern Quebec, and southern Maine southward to North Carolina and extreme northern Alabama and Georgia; also Mississippi, possibly Arkansas north of the Arkansas, and northeastern Louisiana (specifically La Salle Parish) (Ruane et al. 2014). The range meets that of L. elapsoides in the southeastern United States.

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AL, CT, DC, DE, GA, IA, IL, IN, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, TN, VA, VT, WI, WV
Canada ON, QC

Range Map
No map available.


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
AL DeKalb (01049)*, Jackson (01071)*, Madison (01089), Morgan (01103)*, Winston (01133)*
AR Arkansas (05001), Fulton (05049)
GA Bartow (13015)*, Dade (13083)*, Fannin (13111), Floyd (13115), Gilmer (13123), Lumpkin (13187), Murray (13213), Rabun (13241), Towns (13281)*, Union (13291), Walker (13295), White (13311)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
03 Tugaloo (03060102)+, Upper Chattahoochee (03130001)+, Conasauga (03150101)+, Coosawattee (03150102)+, Oostanaula (03150103)+, Etowah (03150104)+*, Upper Coosa (03150105)+
06 Upper Little Tennessee (06010202)+, Middle Tennessee-Chickamauga (06020001)+, Hiwassee (06020002)+, Ocoee (06020003)+*, Guntersville Lake (06030001)+*, Wheeler Lake (06030002)+
11 Dardanelle Reservoir (11110202)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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General Description: See Williams (1994).
Diagnostic Characteristics: See Williams (1994).
Reproduction Comments: Lays clutch of 2-17 eggs, usually in June-July in U.S. Eggs hatch in about 6-9 weeks, August or September. Sexually mature in 3rd or 4th year in Kansas (see DeGraaf and Rudis 1983).
Ecology Comments: Home range size estimated to be about 20 ha in Kansas study (see DeGraaf and Rudis 1983).
Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: Y
Long Distance Migrant: N
Mobility and Migration Comments: Migrates between hibernaculum and summer range in some areas (Vogt 1981, DeGraaf and Rudis 1983).
Palustrine Habitat(s): FORESTED WETLAND, Riparian, SCRUB-SHRUB WETLAND
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Bare rock/talus/scree, Cliff, Cropland/hedgerow, Desert, Forest - Conifer, Forest - Hardwood, Forest - Mixed, Grassland/herbaceous, Old field, Sand/dune, Savanna, Shrubland/chaparral, Suburban/orchard, Woodland - Conifer, Woodland - Hardwood, Woodland - Mixed
Special Habitat Factors: Burrowing in or using soil, Fallen log/debris, Standing snag/hollow tree
Habitat Comments: Habitats vary greatly among different geographic regions: semiarid to wet, lowland valleys to mountains, grasslands and shrublands to forests and forest edges, primary forest to secondary forest, sand dunes to rocky areas, and wilderness to semiagricultural and suburban (Campbell 1998, Lee 2000, Savage 2002, Ernst and Ernst 2003, Stebbins 2003). During daylight, this secretive generally hides in logs and stumps and under surface cover but also may be found in the open. It hibernates underground or in a deep rock crevice. Eggs are laid in soil, sawdust piles, or under surface cover.
Adult Food Habits: Carnivore
Immature Food Habits: Carnivore
Food Comments: Diet includes snakes, lizards, reptile eggs, birds and their eggs, small mammals, and occasionally insects and worms.
Adult Phenology: Circadian, Hibernates/aestivates
Immature Phenology: Circadian, Hibernates/aestivates
Phenology Comments: Active day or night; mostly nocturnal, especially in hot weather (see Collins 1982, Vogt 1981). May estivate during hot dry periods in some areas (Tennant 1984). Inactive during cold months (November-March in many areas) in north.
Length: 199 centimeters
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Group Name: Medium And Large Colubrid Snakes

Use Class: Not applicable
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Occurrences are based on evidence of historical presence, or current and likely recurring presence, at a given location. Such evidence minimally includes collection or reliable observation and documentation of one or more individuals (including eggs) in or near appropriate habitat where the species is presumed to be established and breeding.
Separation Barriers: Busy highway or highway with obstructions such that snakes rarely if ever cross successfully; major river, lake, pond, or deep marsh (this barrier pertains only to upland species and does not apply to aquatic or wetland snakes); densely urbanized area dominated by buildings and pavement.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 1 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Justification: Available information on movements of colubrid snakes is limited to a small minority of species. These data indicate that nearly all species have home ranges smaller or much smaller than 25 ha (e.g., less than 3 ha, Pituophis catenifer in California, Rodriguez-Robles 2003), with some up to about 75 ha (Heterodon platirhinos, average 50 ha, Plummer and Mills 2000), and the largest up to 225 ha in the biggest colubrids (Drymarchon, summer mean 50-100 ha, USFWS 1998).

Radiotelemetry data for Pantherophis indicate that residents of hibernacula that are 1-2 km apart (with suitable intervening habitat) probably interbreed (Prior et al. 1997, Blouin-Demers and Weatherhead 2002). However, "evidence of genetic structure even over short distances (e.g., 2-20 km) implies that gene flow among rat snake populations can be easily disrupted" (Prior et al. 1997). Loughheed et al. (1999) found evidence of substantial genetic exchange among local hibernacula (< 6 km apart), but gene flow over distances of 10s of km appears to be substantially less. Based on extensive radio-tracking data, Blouin-Demers and Weatherhead (2002) found that home range size of Pantherophis averaged 18.5 ha and ranged up to 93 ha; based on the most mobile individuals, Pantherophis from hibernacula up to 8 km apart can come together for mating. Pantherophis and probably other colubrids exhibit high fidelity to hibernacula and shift even to nearby sites only rarely (Prior et al. 2001).

Many of the several studies that report small home ranges for colubrids did not employ methods (e.g., radio telemetry) suitable for detecting full annual or multi-annual home range size, dispersal, or other long-distance movements, so these may have yielded underestimates of home ranges or activity areas.

At least some colubrids, including medium-sized species such as garter snakes, not uncommonly move between areas up to a few kilometers apart, and several species make extensive movements of up to several kilometers, so separation distances of 1-2 km for suitable habitat are too small for medium-sized and large colubrids.

A separation distance of 10 km for suitable habitat was selected as most appropriate for snakes assigned to this Specs Group because it seems generally unlikely that two locations separated by less than 10 km of suitable habitat would represent distinct occurrences.

For the purposes of these occurrence specifications, upland habitat is regarded as unsuitable habitat for aquatic and wetland snakes. For upland snakes, shallow or patchy wetlands are treated as unsuitable habitat whereas large deepwater habitats (subjective determination) are barriers.

Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): .5 km
Date: 12Feb2013
Author: Hammerson, G.
Notes: Separation distance for suitable habitat was changed from 5 km to 10 km based on comments from Dale Jackson (12 Feb 2013).
Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 13Apr2016
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Hammerson, G.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 10Jul2013
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

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