LEICESTER – In the video below, a harmless snake’s best rattlesnake impression had one local family not only fooled but worried for a second. They were convinced that it was in fact a rattler and decided to let it go because they knew rattlesnakes are a protected species.
Wildlife educators with Southern Tier Exotics immediately recognized that the snake in the video is not a rattlesnake but an eastern milk snake (Lampropeltis Triangulum), and said that its ‘rattling’ is actually a common defense mechanism for harmless snakes.
“Killing a rattlesnake is an arrestable offense,” said Devin Moyer with Southern Tier Exotics. “Many snakes will shake their tails as a defense mechanism.”
Moyer said that the snake appears to be fully grown, though it is difficult to tell the size accurately from the video.
According to the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, the milk snake’s name is actually derived from an old wives’ tale that they milk cows. They eat rodents and other snakes and are harmless to humans.
Its bold patterning and habit of vibrating its tail has inspired the misleading name ‘spotted adder’ in some areas.
Milk snakes are common and widely distributed across New York State.