(Lampropeltis triangulum sinaloae)
Range: North America/Mexico
Size: Adults are around 3-4 feet, but some have been known to reach 5 feet. hatchlings are around 8-10 inches.
Lifespan: A healthy well cared for sinaloan can live 10-15 years.
Lampropeltis triangulum sinaloae is a beautiful snake, and is popular among hobbyists due to it’s striking colors. The colors are precise, and the 10 to 17 red bands are very wide and bright. The black bands are often slightly wider than the white rings they edge.The head and snout are primarily black. Aberent colors-two phases of albinos, plus pattern aberrances-are now firmly established. Also a good sinaloan milk snake will not have much if any tipping this is what makes them one of the more beautiful tricolors.
This snake takes both it’s names from the Mexican state of Sinaloa where it occurs widely. In the wild these snakes would feed on small mamals, lizards, frogs, and other snakes. One would think that these snakes would stick out like sore thumbs in the wild. However they are actually can blend in well with their surrondings. They also mimic the colors of a coral snake(except the black touches the yellow, on a coral snake the red touches yellow). These snakes can also release a smelly musk, wich helps them escape from predators. If all else fails they’ll resort to biting, and they also can move quite fast. During the day these snakes stay hidden in burrows, or under derbis (such as logs). During the night they hunt which also helps them avoid predators. Despite their common name milk snakes are actually king snakes, which means they feed on other snakes including some venomous snakes(such as rattle snakes).
These snakes look almost similar to the nelson’s milk snake, but the sinaloan has thicker red bands. The sinaloan, and the nelson’s once were considered a single subspecies, but the differences distinguish them. Wild caught sinaloans however could be sinaloan/nelson hybrids as their ranges touch. It is hard to tell if a wild caught specimen is a hybrid, so this is one reason to get a captive bred baby. Other reason to get a captive bred specimen is wild caught ones tend to harbor exoparisites, and endoparisites (such as mites, ticks, and internal worms).
Sinaloan milk snakes are relatively easy to care for, and are very docile. For an enclosure you should use at least a 20 gallon long aquarium for adults, neonates (babies) can be housed in a 10 gallon enclosure. Make sure the lid on the enclosure is secure as these snakes can easily lift the lid to the enclosure, and escape. Also make sure to house these snakes alone as they will eat other snakes.
You need 1, or 2 hide boxes (one on each side of the enclosure, not a huge ones, just moderately sized ones. The hide box will make the snake feel secure, and having two will let your snake pick which side of the enclosure it wants to stay on (warm end, or cool end). A piece of driftwood is also good as it gives the snake a place to stretch, and climb, and it will also aid your snake while shedding. A bowl of fresh clean water should be provided at all times, also be sure to get a dish large enough for the snake to soak in, as it will most likely do this when it’s in pre-shed.
Good substrates (bedding) include carefresh, aspen, and wood chips (no cedar chips, or pine shavings as they have oils that can harm the snake), and sand these snakes like to burrow so it is advised you make the substrate deep enough for the snake to burrow in.
Indirect window lighting is okay, you can also use a UVB florescent light, or a normal incandescent light (for illumination purposes) if you wish, but make sure you turn the lights off at night so the snake can have a photoperiod. These snakes don’t bask so using a light as a heat source is inappropriate.
A thermal gradient is recommended, keep the warm end of the cage about 82-88 degrees, and the cool end about 76-80 degrees, keep one hiding place on both ends (this was explained on the cage furniture paragraph). For heating use an under tank heater (day, and night use). Night tempratures should be between 76-80 degrees.
I recommend misting the enclosure once a day. Mist the enclosure and the snake three times a day when it’s in pre-shed. Humidity is important to the snake when it’s preparing to shed, but don’t over do the misting as this can result in blister disease, or respiratory problems. If you use reptibark as the substrate it can also hold humidity, and the water dish will also give off some humidity.
In captivity these snakes do well on a diet of mice. These snakes should be fed 1 meal once a week, or 3 food items every 2 weeks (this has worked well for my Snakes from the Lampropeltis genus), these snakes will rarely refuse a feed so it’s not likely you’ll have many feeding problems. Adults will eat any sized mice, and they may also accept lizards such as anoles (this is not recomended), and rat pups. Neonates will take pinky mice. Like all snakes the sinaloan may refuse food while it’s in pre-shed.
While you can hold these snakes, and rarely have any problems, newly obtained specimens, or babies may be snippy, and bite. One that is used to handling should not be held alot though as this will cause stress. If you must hold your snake, only do so every once in a week, not frequently. You will however have to hold your snake sometimes like when you clean its cage.
First off you have to make sure you have a true pair (have the snakes probed, by a professional). Once you’re sure you have a true pair do the following. Stop feeding two weeks prior to brumation, and do not feed them while they are brumating (hibernating). Place each snake in a separate brumation receptacle; a covered plastic shoebox is fine. Clear a shelf in a cool, little-used closet in a basement or garage for the brumation cages. To brumate successfully snakes need minimal disturbance, either a normal photoperiod, or steady darkness, and very cool temperatures, of about 56 degrees. A small water dish should be included in the brumation container so the snake can drink. At the end of brumation, put the sinaloan back in its normal cage. After all this is done it’s time to breed your snakes.
Here’s the springtime protocol (brumation should last 3 months). Increase the photoperiod, and increase the temperature, and the relative humidity. Begin to offer the snakes food again, and once they start eating feed them heavily (2-3 meals weekly).
When the snakes are fully active, and following the first post hibernation shed, put the sexes together. Administering a gentle misting (simulating a rainstorm), may stimulate your snake’s reproductive behavior, a simple spray bottle works fine. Only keep the two snakes together a few hours a day, and watch to make sure cannibalism doesn’t occur.
The female should become gravid after mating, and will most likely refuse food, this is normal and should not cause concerns. From 8-15 days prior to egg deposition, your female will shed her skin again, following this she will search her cage for a deposition site, make sure to provide a laying box, with damp(not wet) moss mixed with sand for the female to lay her eggs, otherwise she could become egg-bound, and require veterinary intervention.
Incubate the eggs at 76, and 84 degrees, and humidity should be maintained at 80 to 95 percent. Keep the incubator dark, once laid, eggs may be gently moved, but not to be turned. Healthy full-term young will emerge from the eggs without incident, about 60 to 80 days, after incubation starts.
This caresheet may also cover the basic care of the Nelson’s milk snake, the Honduran milk snake, and the California kingsnake.
If you want to learn more about Sinaloans I recommend, Milksnakes and Tricolored Kingsnakes (Bartlett, R. D., Reptile Keeper’s Guides.) Publisher: Barron’s Educational Series (February 1, 2000). This book also has facts, on many other milks, and tricolor king snakes.
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