Scarlet Snake

A person's response to seeing a snake in the wild is typically predictable.

The response will be either:

"Cool! A snake! Is it poisonous?"
"Eek! A snake! Kill it! Kill it!"

I do sincerely hope that your first response won't be to kill a snake like the one shown in the photo- the Scarlet Snake. Because if you have indeed spotted the Scarlet Snake, consider yourself lucky. Not many people have seen this secretive snake in the wild. Not because it is rare- because it is a common snake in many portions of the Southeastern United States- however, it is also nocturnal and spends much of its time burrowing in the ground or beneath logs. It is usually in search of lizards, mice, and insects on which to dine.

Scarlet Snakes can grow up to 20" in length. There are other snakes in the wilds of North America that have similar coloration and markings: the non-venomous Scarlet Kingsnake and the very venomous Coral Snake. Fortunately, there is an easy methods for determining whether or not a snake is a Scarlet Snake or the more dangerous Coral Snake:

  1. The Scarlet Snake has a red head- while the Coral Snake has a black head.
  2. The bands of color on the Scarlet Snake are Red-Black-Yellow- with the red (or scarlet) bands never touching the yellow bands. The bands of color on the Coral Snake are Red-Yellow-Black- the red bands touch the yellow bands. This order can be remembered by the mnemonic- "Red touches black- pat him on the back." (for the Scarlet Snake). And "Red touches yellow- will kill a fellow." (for the Coral Snake.)
  3. The Scarlet Snake can be distinguished from the non-venomous Scarlet Kingsnake by the fact that the bands of color on the Scarlet Snake do not fully encircle the body of the snake- whereas the bands of color on the Scarlet Kingsnake fully encircle the body.
As you have probably surmised- this snake's common name is in reference to the brilliant scarlet markings along its body. Cemophora coccinea is the scientific name of this snake. Cemophora is from the combination of the Greek words kemos (meaning muzzle) and phoreus (meaning bearer.) The word coccinea is from the latin word coccineus meaning scarlet or crimson.

The photo of the Scarlet Snake shown in the photo was taken in an central Alabama county by my friend, Dr. Ron Van Houten- a zoologist and professor at the Central Alabama Community College.


Rita Roy said...

This is a good article on snakes. I noticed an article that talks about the biggest snakes ever in the universe. Take a look at it here:-

Gail said...

I believe this is the snake I saw as a child and told Dad I saw a Coral Snake. Of course, he told me coral snakes are not in Arkansas. Are these?

Simply beautiful photo.