This is Half Pint, a very beautiful SINALOAN MILK SNAKE. This species is usually found in Mexico in the wild but Half Pint was born in Tetbury in Gloucestershire!
Milk snakes get their name from an old myth that they used to go into barns to suck milk directly from the udders of cows! People believed this to be true because milk snakes are often very common around barns which house cows. The real reason they are attracted to barns is because barns are also home to rodents, such as mice and rats, which are what milk snakes like Half Pint like to eat!
A milk snake's very distinctive pattern of red, black and yellow/cream bands, closely resembles the pattern of some of the venomous coral snakes found in the same geographic areas. This mimicry almost certainly offers the 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 this coral snake and Half Pint the 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!
I have owned Half Pint since the end of July 2006 when he was only a few days old. At that time he was tiny as you can see below, only measuring about 20cm in length (hence the name Half Pint as he was a very small milk snake), whereas he is now fully grown at about 1.5metres!