Unidentifiable Snake in Front Yard

Asked May 20, 2019, 2:32 AM EDT

Hello! I found a snake in my front yard that I’m unable to identify. Initially, I thought it was a Northern water snake, but the patterns don’t seem to line up with photos I compared it to online. Will you take a look at this photo and tell me what you think?

Essex County New Jersey eastern milksnake lampropeltis triangulum triangulum snakes of new jersey

1 Response

Thank you for your question. The snakes in your photograph is an eastern milksnake, scientific name Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum. This is a non-venomous species.

There are three subspecies of milksnake. They are found from Maine to the northern portions of South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama, then west as far as portions of Utah. The eastern milksnake is found from Maine west to Wisconsin and south to the northern portions of South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama.

Typical length of this species is slightly over 2 feet, and maximum length can exceed 4 feet. They are found in dense forests as well as open field habitats. They are commonly found under rocks and debris in and around former agricultural fields and meadows and under logs near the margins of woodland areas.

They have a varied diet that includes small rodents, small birds, amphibians, lizards and snakes, including venomous species. They can also feed on invertebrates such as slugs, beetles and roaches.

When threatened they may vibrate the tip of their tail, release a strong-smelling musk from anal glands and strike and bite. After the initial bite, they can continue to chew.

Here's a link to a New Jersey government publication where you can learn more about the eastern milksnake and other species of snakes found in New Jersey:

https://www.nj.gov/dep/fgw/ensp/pdf/snake_broch.pdf

If you are interested in learning more about snakes in your area, here is an excellent field guide:

Gibbons, Whit. (2017). Snakes Of The Eastern United States. Athens: The University of Georgia Press.

I hope this answers your question, and thank you for contacting Ask an Expert.

Jim