Montana Milksnake

Dedicated exclusively to field herping.

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Austin Carl
Posts: 2
Joined: October 23rd, 2019, 5:47 pm

Montana Milksnake

Post by Austin Carl »

I’ve been reading posts on this forum for several months but have never posted before. I’m a recent college graduate that has been doing seasonal work outdoors, which has had an unexpected benefit of reigniting my love of snakes that started in my childhood catching garter snakes in my Montana backyard. The stunning beauty of the snakes in Alabama and Tennessee (where I spent the spring and summer, respectively) encouraged me to seek out the snakes of Montana while I am here spending time with family this fall. Having never seen much here besides garters and occasional bull snake, I contacted a fellow Montana member of this forum. The member’s gracious and helpful advice gave my road cruising, peering in sandstone crevices, and hiking the forests some much-needed direction, but unfortunately I didn’t find much beyond some high-elevation garters on the move to their winter homes. While beautiful, it was difficult not to look at these well-known snakes and wish for the thrill of discovery I felt so often in the South when new (to me) species seemed to appear weekly.


When the first snow fell in early October, I felt resigned to a long winter of snake-less days, especially given my upcoming move to a Colorado mountain town in January. All my markings of south-facing slopes on Google maps, poring over habitat requirements, and cross referencing forum posts and iNaturalist sightings with my target areas had yielded disappointing results. Until, hiking with a friend on the outskirts of town in the last days of October, I noticed a small undulating shape upon the trail.


It was a milk snake! Apparently the approaching storm and temperatures in the low 40s had not deterred it from making a late afternoon stroll across the path. It moved quite sluggishly, but posed beautifully for pictures and was deposited on the other side of the trail safely. I can only presume that it was searching for a winter home and hope it found one before the snow fell heavily only two days later. The joy I felt in that moment reminded me of the wonder my younger self experienced looking in my backyard for a olive curve with a yellow stripe winding its way through the bushes; one of the things I love about snakes is their ability to instantly transport me back to being a kid in the unpredictable moment they cross my path. I left that trail reassured that finding herps was indeed possible in the Mountain West and hopeful the Colorado spring might carry more of these beautiful creatures into my life. It was also a good reminder that snakes can appear literally anywhere and that I, personally, would like to temper my disappointment in future expeditions with a bit more appreciation for being outdoors while looking for snakes- especially given this one popped up when I had already given up for the season and the lack of expectations for that hike made the discovery all the more enjoyable. Who knows, perhaps the next snake I see will be sliding down the ski hill alongside me this winter. After this milk snake’s storm-chasing tendencies, I’m going to keep my mind open to any possibilities.


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Richard F. Hoyer
Posts: 609
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 12:14 pm

Re: Montana Milksnake

Post by Richard F. Hoyer »

Very, very nice Austin.

Richard F. Hoyer (Corvallis, Oregon)

Posts: 405
Joined: June 17th, 2010, 4:51 am
Location: CT

Re: Montana Milksnake

Post by Kfen »

Beautiful snake, and nice write up to go with it. I too have definitely learned to appreciate my time in the field even when not finding anything.

Posts: 41
Joined: July 16th, 2019, 9:56 am
Location: North Adams,Massachusetts

Re: Montana Milksnake

Post by AEthelred »

Milkshakes can do well in cold weather area's and l have seen them in Vermont.
I once had to call fish and game because there was a milksnake in a Vermont laundry mat.But when fish and game arrived the snake escaped under the driers.

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