Snake ID

Asked July 1, 2020, 11:56 AM EDT

A snake made its way in through our range hood vent. It disappeared while running to find a broom and we have no idea where it is. What is this? Venomous? how do we get it out of the house?

Westchester County New York

1 Response

Thank you for your question. The snake in your photograph is a juvenile 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.

Getting it out of your house could be a real challenge. It will probably leave on its own if it can't find anything to eat. If your range hood is vented to the roof outside, it will most likely crawl back out. If it's vented to your attic, then it will crawl back out, and, again, if it can't find anything to eat in the attic, will crawl back outside. If you see it in the house again, scoop it up with a shovel and drop it in a trash can. Take it outside and let it go.

Here's a link to the PA Herps website's page on this species where you can learn more about the eastern milksnake and see additional photos:

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.