Scarlet Snake

Facts, Identification & Control

Latin Name

Cemophora coccinea

Appearance

Found primarily in the southeastern United States, the scarlet snake is a relatively small, non-venomous snake, reaching 14 to 21 inches in length. The colorful scarlet snake has a light cream to yellow body with irregular red patches that are encircled in black. These patches encircle the upper portion of the animal giving the scarlet snake a banded appearance. However, the snake’s belly is a solid cream or whitish color. This pattern often causes confusion and fear because it is similar to both the venomous coral snake and non-venomous, larger scarlet king snake. For many, a simple rhyme helps distinguish the venomous coral snake from the non-venomous scarlet king and scarlet snakes: “red before black, a friend of Jack, red before yellow, a deadly fellow.” A normally docile animal, the scarlet snake is not known to bite when handled. However, it is always best to avoid the snake unless a proper identification is made.

Behavior, Diet & Habits

This rarely seen snake, venturing out primarily at night, is fossorial, or prone to digging, and spends most of the day hidden beneath moist leaf litter, rocks or fallen logs. When it is seen, it is during the warm summer months when the snake is traveling across cooler roads. Little is known about the reproductive habits of the scarlet snake, other than a typical snake may lay three to eight eggs during the warmer summer months. These small snakes are also known to hunt smaller prey, including small lizards and snakes. The scarlet snake also has a set of enlarged teeth that they use to open and eat the eggs of other animals.