Origin: Costa Rica, Panama
Size: up to 7 feet
Lifespan: 20+ years
Temperature: 74-76 degrees with no hot spot. Temperatures over 80 can be fatal.
Humidity: 70-80 %
Substrate: Cypress and sphagnum moss
Baby enclosure size: 20″ x 10″ x 10″
Adult enclosure size: 4’ x 2’ x 1’
Black milk snakes are the largest of the milk snakes and endemic to Central America. They start life as classic, tri-colored black, red, and white snakes with a small black fleck on each scale. As they mature, the black flecks continue to grow until they are blacked out completely, with the bands only visible when the light catches them just right. They are elusive by nature but docile, and minimal handling is required for them to become handleable adults, although hatchlings can be quite skittish. They are keen, alert animals. While their care and temperament are easy, their strict temperature requirements may be challenging for novice keepers.
This guide is a brief overview of basic care and minimum husbandry requirements and is not intended as a comprehensive guide to care. Our best advice:
Read, read, read! Studying about your new pet is the key to a long and happy life for them, and years of enjoyment for you.
Enclosures must be long enough for the snake to stretch out fully and exercise. They require substrate for burrowing and places to hide. The enclosure can be short, though they will sometimes climb on small logs or short outcrops if they aren’t too high. Their enclosure should always have a closed top, never screen. Provide foliage and cork bark, as well as a humid hide with damp sphagnum moss. This species is ideal for bioactive enclosures.
Cypress is an excellent substrate for these snakes. Provide plenty of sphagnum moss to hold humidity. Leaf litter, foliage, and cork bark for extra hiding are beneficial, as these snakes do not like to be exposed. They will frequently be more active when given ample places to retreat to.
HEATING AND LIGHTING
Lights are not necessary for these snakes as they are primarily fossorial and nocturnal. 74-76 degrees is the ideal temperature, so heating is not needed provided that the ambient temperature of the room is in the mid 70s. Their temperature should never go above 80 degrees.
High humidity is critical for these snakes. 70-80% humidity or more is best. Regular misting is important.
Provide these snakes with a non-porous water bowl and change it frequently. These snakes dehydrate quickly. Never let them run out of water.
Black milk snakes should be handled regularly from the time they are young to develop into docile, well-socialized adults. Because they have few natural defenses, they frequently thrash and musk when picked up. When handling hatchling milk snakes, we find it best to gently scoop them up with two hands, keeping them in the enclosure rather than removing them. This helps avoid falls, which can injure a young milk snake. With regular handling, your young milk snake will become more comfortable with being picked up. Young snakes that are being socialized may bite, but this is uncommon. The best reaction is no reaction. Children should always be supervised when handling snakes. Do not handle them while they are in shed or right after meals.
Allow your new snake at least a week to adjust to its new habitat before feeding. Mortal Coil Serpentry supports feeding frozen feeders. Your new pet is already feeding on frozen thawed. Live feeding is not recommended. Warm frozen prey to a natural body temperature (~90 degrees). Do not feed your snake from your fingers. Present prey with tongs, holding it by the base of the tail, and wiggle gently in front of the snake. Do not handle for at least 24 hours after feeding. black milk snakes will not typically eat when in shed.
Hatchlings to 2 years:
1 rodent the approximate girth of the snake once per week. Mice and African Soft Furs are superior to rats of equivalent size for nutritional value.
1 rodent the approximate girth of the snake once every 1-2 weeks. If the snake is refusing meals ~50% of the time, adjust the feeding schedule accordingly.
The correct body shape for a black milk snake is essentially round, but not so thick as to make the tail overly distinguishable from the body.