Description: This is one of the most colorful and vibrant snakes in the Southeastern United States. Their body is a collection of red, black, and yellow/whitish bands. The red bands are almost always surrounded by the black bands and the front of the snakes head is red. These colored bands extend around the whole snake, and are present on the ventral scales. Adults average in size between 15-20 inches.
Natural History: This snake is found in habitats with well drained soils such as Sandhills and open pine forests. They may spend most of the year underground, but when the temperature is suitable, or following rainstorms, they will emerge and wedge themselves behind exfoliating tree bark on snags, stumps or fallen limbs. Their primary food source are small lizards and snakes. They will also consume invertebrates and small mammals.
Similar Species: The vibrant colors of this snake are a form of Batesian Mimicry and the intention is to resemble the highly venomous Eastern Coral Snake (Micrurus fulvius). The Eastern Coral Snake generally has a more rounded, black head, and the red color bands on the body are typically surrounded by yellow. However this may not always be the case, so if you are unsure do not approach the snake!
The Scarlet Snake (Cemophora coccinea) is another snake that resembles the Coral Snake and has the same sequence of colors as the Scarlet Kingsnake. In this case, the red and black colorations are not present on to the ventral scales. The underside of the Scarlet Snake is solid white or yellowish.
Distribution: This snake is found throughout the Southeastern United States. From Southern Virginia, through Florida, over to Mississippi. The range extends north to Western Tennessee.
Contributed by Jake Zadik (2/24/2020)