Scarlet Kingsnake

NON-VENOMOUS

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Scientific name: Lampropeltis elapsoides (HOLBROOK 1838)
* Currently accepted name

Synonym:
* scientific names used through time

  • Coluber elapsoides – HOLBROOK 1838
  • Calamaria elapsoides – HOLBROOK 1842
  • Coluber doliatus – LINNAEUS (fide COPE 1860)
  • Coronella doliata – HOLBROOK 1842 (fide COPE 1860)
  • Ophibolus doliatus – BAIRD & GIRARD 1853
  • Coronella doliata – DUMÉRIL, BIBRON & DUMÉRIL 1854
  • Lampropeltis doliata – COPE 1860
  • Calamaria elapsoidea – COPE 1888
  • Osceola elapsoidea – COPE 1888
  • Lampropeltis triangulum temporalis – COPE 1893
  • Ophibolus doliatus triangulus – LARGELAMB 1907
  • Lampropeltis triangulum virginiana – BLANCHARD 1920
  • Lampropeltis elapsoides elapsoides – ALLEN 1932
  • Lampropeltis triangulum doliata – TAYLOR 1951
  • Lampropeltis triangulum elapsoides – CONANT & COLLINS 1991
  • Lampropeltis elapsoides – HARPER 2006

Description Average adult size is 14-20 inches (35.5-50.8 cm), record is 27 inches (68.5 cm). Adults are tricolored, displaying red, black, and yellow rings that encircle the entire body. Both the red and yellow rings are surrounded by black rings, thus the red and yellow rings do not touch. The snout is red. The belly pattern is the same as the dorsal color - red, black, and yellow. The scales are smooth, and there are 19 dorsal scale rows at midbody. The pupil is round. Juvenile colors are like those of adults, but the yellow rings may be white.

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A. Side of the head
B. Front (face view) of the head
C. Underside of the head (chin and throat)

Range: It is found throughout Florida. There have been 2 specimens reported from the Florida Keys, one from Key Largo and one from Key West. Outside of Florida, it is found from eastern Louisiana to southern New Jersey.

Habitat: Locally abundant, it is found in pinelands, and hardwood hammocks.

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Comments: HARMLESS (Non-Venomous), and reluctant to bite. The Scarlet Kingsnake is active primarily at night. It is mainly a terrestrial burrower, yet it can climb extremely well. Although rarely seen due to its fossorial behavior, it can be found under rocks, inside logs, and under tree bark on dead, standing trees.

It feeds on small lizards (especially skinks), rodents, and other snakes. It lays eggs. Breeding occurs from March-June. Usually 2-9 eggs are laid between May-August. Newborns are very small, from 3-3.5 inches (7.6-8.8 cm) in length.

Comparison with other species: The Scarlet Kingsnake is frequently mistaken for the venomous Eastern Coral Snake (Micrurus fulvius) or the non-venomous Scarlet Snake (Cemophora cocinnea), but it really is easy to distinguish between the three species. A mnemonic rhyme may help you distinguish the Eastern Coral Snake from the two similar harmless species:

'If red touches yellow, it can kill a fellow' (Eastern Coral Snake)

'If red touches black, it is a friend of Jack' (Scarlet Kingsnake or Scarlet Snake)

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