Pueblan Milksnake

       Lampropeltis triangulum campbelli

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Reptilia

Order: Squamata

Suborder: Serpentes

Family: Colubridae

Genus: Lampropeltis

Species: L. triangulum campbelli 

Conservation Status: Milk snakes are widespread and highly adaptable, and are not given any special protection. 

Natural History: The Pueblan milksnake is a stunning species of tricolor central American milk. Where they naturally occur in the states of Morelos, Puebla, and Oaxaca in southern Mexico. Here they inhabit dry woodland, semi-arid scrub and grassland environments. They are typically crepuscular in behavior, preferring to hide under rocks, fallen trees, leaf litter, and man made debris during the day, emerging at dusk and dawn to hunt lizards, amphibians, small mammals, fledgling birds and other snakes. The widespread occurrence of tricolor milk and king snakes is a common form of Batesian mimicry. This is a form of mimicry in which the harmless species evolves physical characteristics to resemble species that are potentially dangerous to predators. In this case the animals being mimicked are venomous central American coral snakes of the genus Micrurus and MicruroidesLike many of the central American milks, campbelli can reach fairly large adult sizes of 36-48 inches and are fairly robust animals. Like most milks, pueblans are reluctant to bite and prefer to flee, squirm and spray defecation or musk if threatened.

Care in Captivity: The Pueblan milksnake is a fairly easy species of colubrid to maintain. Suitable sized caging, whether it's a tub on a rack system, specialized reptile enclosure or tank with a screen top need to be escape proof and very secure. All snakes are excellent escape artists, but members of the Lampropeltis genus are masters of the art. These snakes tolerate a variety of substrate, but prefer something with enough depth to allow natural burrowing behavior. A couple of tight hide boxes, preferably one on the warm side and one on the cool side will allow the animal stress free thermoregulation. Pueblan milks hail from warm regions of the world and prefer ambient temperatures in the high seventies to low eighties with access to a basking area in the mid eighties. Because these snakes are typically shy and avoid bright lights and open areas the use of basking lights is generally counter productive. Thermostatically controlled heat pads, panels, mats or even ceramic heat emitters are better options to provide ideal temperatures and allow for natural thermoregulation. A night time temperature drop of 5-10 degrees is natural and well tolerated.

 

I prefer and recommend offering frozen thawed prey animals, these rodents are more affordable, mitigate the risk of passing internal parasites and eliminate the chance of injury to your snake.

Captive Reproduction: Pueblan milk snakes breed readily in captivity and with little issue. I provide a period of brumation for my adult animals regardless of gender. At the beginning of November I cease feeding and allow the animals to empty their digestive system during a two-three  week fast. I then begin reducing the temperature daily and eventually move the snakes individually in smaller tubs to a ‘cool’ room. I allow the temperatures in this area to reach 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit and remain there until mid February. After brumation I move the snakes back to their normal housing and begin raising the temperature back to pre-brumation levels over the period of several days. I then begin offering prey, with a slight increase in availability for females I intend to pair that season. I generally wait for the females first shed to pair them, and then separate the animals after observing copulation or twelve hours. Even after a confirmed lock it is ideal to give the male several opportunities to mate and I will pair them several times over the next week.

I then resume feeding for the gravid female, offering prey items approximately every five days. The female is provided with a smaller water bowl and an appropriately sized laying container is added to the habitat. I use Rubbermaid food storage containers with a small access hole cut into the lid. These containers are filled with very lightly damp sphagnum moss and attract the gravid snake to deposit her eggs there. It is typically 28-35 days after a successful pairing before the female lays her 3-15 cream colored oval shaped eggs. The eggs are normally deposited in a small cluster and quickly dry becoming stuck together. Under normal circumstances I leave the egg mass together and transition them to a container that will accommodate the size of the clutch for incubation. While stuck together the eggs are harder for predators to consume, and they will even share resources such as oxygen and moisture during the incubation process. In the case of a dead or unfertilized ova you can very gently pry the eggs apart and remove any problem eggs, but only if they appear to threaten the healthy clutch, under most circumstances bad eggs are no danger to the rest. I incubate at 83-85 degrees Fahrenheit in coarse vermiculite mixed with filtered tap water on a 1:1 ratio by weight. The resulting mix should be damp, and clump slightly but not produce any water when squeezed tightly. I also generally add a small amount of very slightly damp sphagnum moss around the inside edges of the incubation container. The eggs typically begin to pip at 55-62 days, the neonates can be removed as they hatch or left together until all have emerged. After several days the baby snakes will shed their first skin and are ready to be offered their first prey item.

I have a 90% success rate with frozen thawed small pinkies as a first meal, and only very rarely have to resort to live or scent transition to start a baby milk feeding. They are shy snakes by nature so often I lay the prey item just outside the neonates hide box and leave them undisturbed for several hours. These and all baby snakes are capable of cannibalism and I cannot stress enough the importance of separate housing for these animals, as babies and throughout their lives.

Our Animals: We are working with second and third generation captive produced adults. My original pair was obtained from Robert Applegate's Zapotitlan Basin locality in 2004. I have selectively held back specimens with higher concentrations of orange/yellow banding while still maintaining the original Applegate bloodline.

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