Northwest Florida Environmental Conservancy, Part 2
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Which Snake is Venomous?

So you think you know your venomous snakes?
  Of the three red, yellow and black colored snakes below, do you know which two are harmless and which one is venomous (don't cheat and look at the titles below the photos!)?  
  The Scarlet, Scarlet Kingsnake and Coral snake are all secretive, fossorial species that spend most of their lives undeground.  The three snakes may possess similar colors, but they are distinctive, individual species.  Scarlet snakes prefer drier habiats of flatwoods and sandhills, whereas Scarlet Kingsnakes are found in wetter habiats of wet flatwoods and various wetlands ecosystems. 
  Coral snakes are more general in nature and can be found in a variety of southern ecosystems and are actually quite common but rarely ever seen.  Coral snakes prey upon many other snake species, including both the Scarlet and Scarlet Kingsnake.  Venomous Coral snakes are actually more closely related to Cobras (than our other venomous snakes in the U.S., the Pit-vipers) and belong to the family Elapidae and possess primarily a neurotoxic venom (Pit-vipers posses moreso a hemotoxic venom).
  Any snake that you may encounter with a pattern of red, yellow and black  bands should be avoided if all possible and dealt with cautiously.  If in doubt as to what species you may be seeing, the following poem may help:    
"Red and yellow kill a fellow, red and black venom lack (or friend of Jack)"
Without cheating, which snake below is the Coral Snake? 


(Above) N. Scarlet Snake (Cemorpha coccinea copei).  Taylor Co., FL
NONVENOMOUS!  Scarlet snakes are common snakes found in dryer, upland areas of the Southeast.  They are very secretive and are fossorial (spending most of their lives underground), but are ocassionally found by people.  Unfortunately they are killed by people that think they are dangerous.  They are a very inoffensive and gentle snake and are very good to use for educational snake programs.


(Above) Scarlet Kingsnake (Lampropeltis triangulum elapsoides).  Okaloosa Co., FL
NONVENOMOUS!  Scarlet Kingsnakes are also a common species found in the Southeastern U.S.  They are generally found in wetlands, flatwoods or wetter areas, but are ocassionally found in dryer habitats.  Unfortunately they are heavily sought after by the pet trade and they have been collected by the tens of thousands and taken out of the wild by commercial collectors.  Such over-collection is devastating on this species among many other native reptiles and amphibians!  Scarlet Kings are also a very gentle-natured snake that are also mistakenly killed by people. 


(Above) E. Coral snake

(Micrurus f. fulvius).

Liberty Co., FL


VENOMOUS!  Coral snakes are also a common snake found in the Deep Southeast.  Coral snakes are very secretive and spend the majority of their lives underground.  They are generally a smaller species and adults average 12 - 24", but they can get larger.  Bites from this species are rare and generally only happen when people are trying to catch or handle them. 

Pg. 12 Rare Amphibians & Reptiles of Upland Sandhills