Honduran Milk Snake (S/F)

The Honduran milk snake (Lampropeltis triangulum hondurensis) is a species of non-venomous snake belonging to the family Colubridae which can be found in Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. Like most milk snakes, the Honduran milk snake is crepuscular, especially during the summer months when the heat of the day is often beyond their tolerance.

Description

While there are twenty-four subspecies of milk snake, this particular one is identified by a base red color with black and yellow rings or bands. The yellow may be replaced by deep orange, referred to as a “tangerine phase” snake. In some variants, the tail region has only red and black colors, but the individual which appears in the film has light-colored bands all the way to its tail-tip; this is referred to as a “hypomelanistic tricolor” snake.

An adult Honduran milk snake can reach lengths of 48 inches from head to tail, making it one of the larger milk snake subspecies.

Growth

Hatchlings are approximately eight inches long, and are darker-colored than the adults.

Sexual Dimorphism

Male and female Honduran milk snakes grow to the same length and have the same color patterns; as of such, there is no external sexual dimorphism.

Habitat
Preferred Habitat

The Honduran milk snake prefers to inhabit tropical environments with low to moderate altitude. Its range includes Honduras, Nicaragua, and northeastern Costa Rica. In the Jurassic Park films, its native range also includes Isla Sorna, which would mark the westernmost extent of its range in Costa Rica.

Isla Nublar

The Honduran milk snake is not known from Isla Nublar, though its presence on Isla Sorna means that it could possibly exist here. If any inhabited the island, they likely became extinct during the June 23, 2018 volcanic eruption of Mount Sibo.

Isla Sorna

It is known to inhabit the central region of the island near the Workers’ Village in 1997. Based on its habitat needs, it could theoretically live over much of Isla Sorna. Much of the island consists of moist forests and there are few very tall mountains, so the only areas where this species would not be found would be the open grasslands and plains.

Known (red) and hypothetical (purple) range of L. t. hondurensis on Isla Sorna, circa 1997
Behavior and Ecology
Daily Activity

These snakes are crepuscular, emerging at dawn and dusk to feed on small animals. In the films, one has only been observed late at night, where it was resting in a small cave before being disturbed.

Diet and Feeding Behavior

Honduran milk snakes generally prey on small reptiles, including lizards and snakes; they may prey on venomous snakes without any apparent difficulty and are also known to be cannibalistic. Small birds and rodents are also potential prey. They may also eat eggs.

Prey is killed by constriction, rather than biting; all milk snakes are nonvenomous.

Social Behavior

Due to their cannibalistic tendencies, all milk snakes are solitary except when mating.

Reproduction

The Honduran milk snake is sexually mature at 18 months, and may lay three to eighteen eggs at a time. Eggs are laid starting in early June, and incubate for two months. They hatch in August or September. As with most snakes, the Honduran milk snake shows no parental care, and may view its young as potential food.

Vocalizations

Honduran milk snakes are not known to vocalize.

Ecological Interactions

They are not venomous, and will rarely bite if threatened; they usually employ other defense mechanisms first, such as attempting to flee or discharging a foul smell. Due to its small size, this snake would probably not be a threat to any dinosaurs, and may instead be preyed upon by some carnivorous species such as Velociraptor and Compsognathus, which are found in the same habitat.

To avoid being eaten, most milk snake subspecies employ Batesian mimicry, which means they evolve to resemble a threatening species. The Honduran milk snake in particular closely resembles the coral snake, which is highly venomous. Even so, when disturbed by humans or other animals, this reptile prefers to flee. This is likely what killed Dr. Robert Burke during the 1997 Isla Sorna incident; having been disturbed in the middle of the night when it would be sleeping, a milk snake fled into the nearest shelter it could find, which happened to be Dr. Burke’s shirt collar. This frightened the paleontologist to his death as he stumbled into the reach of a tyrannosaur.

While the snake was almost certainly consumed along with Dr. Burke during the incident, it is unlikely that an adult female Tyrannosaurus rex under normal conditions would prey on such a small animal intentionally.

Interactions with Humans

In real life, Honduran milk snakes are docile and skittish. In the films, one is shown to hide when disturbed. Unfortunately, its hiding place was the shirt collar of Dr. Robert Burke, whose fear of snakes led to him stumbling into the reach of a tyrannosaur. This led to the death of Dr. Burke, and presumably the snake as well.