Scarlet King Snake Scarlet King Snake
Scarlet King Snake

Scientific Classification

Common Name
Genus Species
Lampropeltis (shining, beautiful scales) triangulum elapsoides

Fast Facts

Red, black, and yellow rings around entire body; red and yellow rings are both surrounded by black rings (the red and yellow rings never touch); red nose; ventral pattern same as dorsal
35.5-50.8 cm (14-20 inches) in length; maximum recorded length is 68.5 cm (27 inches)
Average 1270 g (2.77 lbs.)
Small mammals, eggs, and other reptiles (usually anoles and chameleons) including snakes
45-65 days
Clutch Size: 2-9 eggs
Sexual Maturity
2 years
Life Span
10-15 years
Throughout Florida and from eastern Louisiana to southern New Jersey
Pinelands, hardwood hammocks, prairies, cultivated fields, and suburban areas
Global: No data
IUCN: No data
CITES: Not listed
USFWS: Not listed

Fun Facts

  1. Like many reptiles, the incubation temperature of the snake's eggs may determine the offspring's sex; warmer temperatures usually favor males while cool temperatures favor females.
  2. The scarlet king snake likely derives a degree of protection from potential predators via its mimetic coloration - appearing similar to venomous coral snakes of the genus Micrurus. Though they are non-venomous themselves, the scarlet king snake's confusion with the aforementioned coral snakes is beneficial from a predator aversion standpoint. However, this same confusion is often detrimental to the scarlet king snake with regard to human encounters. A simple rhyme may help people distinguish the venomous coral snakes from two harmless species:
    'If red touches yellow, it can kill a fellow' (coral snake - Micrurus spp.)
    'If red touches black, it is a friend of Jack' (scarlet kingsnake, L. t. elapsoides or scarlet snake, Cemophora coccinea)
  3. Kingsnakes use quick, jerky movements so that their bands flash, startling predators. Their bright colors signal danger and often confuse predators, making these snakes hard to follow.
  4. Kingsnakes are known for eating other snakes.
  5. Kingsnakes have one of the widest distributions of any American snake.
  6. Milksnakes, also known as kingsnakes, get their name from an old belief that they drink milk from the udders of cows. This myth probably arose because milksnakes were commonly spotted in barns and stables, where there is a concentration of rodents.

Ecology and Conservation

Many other important predators (i.e. birds-of-prey) feed on young snakes. This means that snakes fulfill roles as both predators and prey in regional food chains. Kingsnakes are also valuable in their role of curbing rodent populations, especially those near human settlement. The scarlet kingsnake is one of two U.S. subspecies of milksnake still commonly collected from the wild for pet trade. Excessive collection of kingsnakes could deplete their natural populations. Kingsnakes and milksnakes are also killed frequently by those who confuse their coloring with that of the venomous coral snake.


Areste, Manuel and Cebrián, Rafael. Snakes of the World. New York: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., 2003.

Coborn, John. The Atlas of Snakes of the World. New Jersey: T.F.H. Publications, inc. 1991.

Markel, R. and R. D. Bartlette. Kingsnakes and Milksnakes. TFH Publications, Inc. 1990.

Mehrtens, John M. Living Snakes of the World. New York: Sterling Publishing Co., 1987.