Technology Aids In Identifying Maine Snakes

ArrayAugust 27, 2018 at 12:45 pm

[caption id="attachment_3062" align="alignright" width="458"] An Eastern Milk Snake.[/caption] By Assistant Regional Wildlife Biologist Kendall Marden “Its brown and black with diamond patterns on its back and it is a couple of feet long!”  That's the usual statement received by MDIFW Biologists and Game Wardens from concerned callers who have come across an unidentified snake. The first step to trying to answer the caller’s questions is to identify what species of snake they have encountered. Given that several of the species of snakes found in Maine have some sort of alternating color pattern along their back and brown, black, or grey colors, it can be difficult to identify the offending animal from the commonly provided description.  Thankfully, today’s technology often provides the opportunity for pictures to be taken and sent to us, which greatly enhances our ability to distinguish the species in question.  Occasionally, callers will even report that the snake the saw raised its head and rattled its tail! But, don't worry! Although evidence indicates that timber rattlesnakes long ago called Maine home, they do not live here now. Milk snakes are typically various shades of brown and tan (sometimes reddish) with distinctly darker brown saddles edged with black. Their underside is a pale black and white checkerboard.  They are colloquially known as milk adders and falsely accused in farm lore of latching onto a cow’s udder and stealing milk.  Eastern milk snakes do live in Maine and often portray themselves as a rattlesnake. They are, however, not venomous. In fact, they are constrictors and kill larger prey items like mice by entangling and swallowing. If you do find that a snake in Maine is acting like a rattlesnake it most likely an eastern milk snake.  Most snakes in Maine are not generally aggressive although, on occasion, northern water snakes have been known to give a short chase if they are surprised by someone at a close distance.  If you are unable to answer your questions about a snake and end up contacting us for assistance, be sure and take picture to send along with your inquiry. One such example recently where this was very helpful was when a caller sent a photo of a snake that at first glance appeared to be an exotic and potentially illegal venomous snake but upon close inspection turned out to be a rubber toy! [caption id="attachment_3061" align="aligncenter" width="480"] This rubber toy was spotted recently and caused momentary concern of an escaped and potentially illegal exotic snake.[/caption] For more information on snakes in Maine visit