Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Lucky Find- The Scarlet Snake

My brother was up in his patch of the woods and came across one of the most beautiful snakes that we possess in this country- the Northern scarlet snake (Cemophora coccinea copei).

It closely mimics the poisonous coral snake the difference being that the red and lighter bands do not touch (remember- “Red and Yellow Kill a Fellow” and “Red and Black Friend of Jack”). It rarely bites when encountered but instead will bury its vital head beneath its coils allowing its less vital tail to be exposed in hopes of distracting a predator. It is mainly nocturnal and has been discovered behind the bark of dead or dying pine trees, under leaf litter and has the habit of burrowing into sandy ground, which is exactly where he found it- under a tarp burrowing in sand on his property. The tip of its nose is pointed (fossorial) which helps with this habit of burrowing into penetrable soils. Its diet consists of earthworms, skinks, lizards, and your occasional insect. It is also sometimes confused with another non-poisonous Texas snake- the Louisiana milk snake (Lampropeltis triangulum amaura) whose brightly colored ventral rings extend onto its belly whereas the scarlet snake presents a plain belly that can range from white to pink or gray. In the state of Texas both species- Northern and Texas scarlet snakes are listed as threatened.

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