Saturday, April 9, 2011
Species of the Day: Andean Milk Snake
Scientific Name: Lampropeltis triangulum andesiana
Adult Size: Up to five feet long
Range: Elevations from 700 to 9,000 feet in the Andes Mountain range in Columbia
Habitat: Mountain forests and rocky grasslands
The Andean milk snake is an Alpine subspecies of milk snake. These colorful snakes are covered in stripes of red, black and yellow, often with black speckling on each scale. Their beauty, calm dispositions and ease of care make them excellent starter snakes for beginner hobbyists. The Andean milk snake occurs in the Andes mountains of Columbia and Venezuela. Andean milk snakes inhabit high altitude forests and grasslands up to 9,000 feet in elevation, and as mountain-dwellers, they can tolerate much lower temperatures than most snakes. They spend much of their time in burrows and under rocks and logs, where they are safe from predators and the cold weather, and come out between the afternoon and evenings to hunt.
Cages should be escape-escape proof, with a heavy ceramic crock filled with fresh water and a few hiding places being essential cage furniture. Milk snakes are close cousins of king snakes, which means that they can be cannibalistic and should be kept separately. Lots of hobbyists keep their milk snakes in inexpensive commercially available plastic tubs for keeping snakes in a rack arrangement, but if you want to display these gorgeous snakes, a 20 to 40 gallon aquarium works well. A variety of substrates may be used (aspen shavings, rodent bedding or newspaper) to keep the snake clean, warm and dry. Temperature control is important for maintaining the feeding response and proper digestion. Heat is best supplied through an undertank heating pad. Andean milk snakes prefer temperatures between 80 to 85 degrees F, and you can let it drop in to the 60s at night. It has not been proven whether or not these snakes require UV lighting, the choice is yours whether or not to employ it. Andean milk snakes will feed on just about anything including warm-blooded prey such as rodents and birds, and even cold-blooded prey such as frogs and lizards.