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:
- The Scarlet Snake has a red head- while the Coral Snake has a black head.
- 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.)
- 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.
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.