Lampropeltis elapsoides, 16 June 2017

Lampropeltis elapsoides, the Scarlet kingsnake;
Volusia county, Florida (16 June 2017).

For many, the instinctual first response to a photo like this is to try to mutter the old rhyme, “Red on yellow, kill a fellow. Red on black, friend of Jack” (or some variation of it). Though it works in this particular case, it doesn’t always work — and really isn’t a 100% accurate key to reality. Nature is nothing short of complicated, and complexity bring with it variation and exceptions. This is especially true with snakes. Anyhow, this is a fairly bright and mostly-typical Scarlet kingsnake, a non-venomous species often confused with the Eastern coral snake. Note the red head and red eyes of this snake. To the best of my knowledge, those are characteristics never exhibited by the Eastern coral snake (though the Florida scarlet snake also sports a red head with darker red eyes). In Florida, if the snake has a red head, it mostly likely is not a venomous coral snake!

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