This beautiful little tri-coloured snake is a juvenile PUEBLAN MILK SNAKE, a species which in the wild is found in the regions of Puebla, Morelos and Oaxaca in southern Mexico.
The Pueblan milk snake can be found in a variety of habitats including forests, open scrubland and agricultural areas. They feed on anything they can overpower which can include rodents, birds, lizards, frogs and even other snakes. Like all snakes they use their tongue to smell or taste the air, as can be seen here!
The distinctive banding of milk snakes closely resembles the banding of the venomous coral snakes found in the same geographic areas. This mimicry almost certainly offers milk snakes protection from predators, which will see the colours as a sign of danger.
I was lucky enough whilst visiting Costa Rica in December 2013 to encounter a venomous coral snake in the wild, here it is:
If you compare the pattern of the coral snake and my milk snake you will notice a significant difference.
This is the pattern of a milk snake, where the red and black bands always touch but the red and cream/yellow bands never do.
This is the pattern of a coral snake, where the red and cream/yellow bands always touch and the red and black bands never do.
If you are in Mexico or central America this distinction is very important as you can be sure that a snake with red and black bands touching is harmless, whereas one with red and yellow bands touching is venomous. I often teach children a little rhyme I learned as a child myself to remember which is which, it goes like this:
'Red touching black is a friend of Jack, red touching yellow can kill a fellow!' There are many variations on the rhyme including 'venom lack' instead of 'friend of Jack' but they all basically mean the same thing!