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Cemophora coccinea
Cemophora Coccinea.jpg
scarlet snake
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Genus: Cemophora
Species: C. coccinea
Binomial name
Cemophora coccinea
(Blumenbach, 1788)[1]
Cemophora coccinea distribution.png
Northern Scarlet Snake, Cemophora coccinea copei
Large Adult Scarlet Snake

Cemophora coccinea is a nonvenomous species of colubrid snake commonly known as the scarlet snake. It is the only member of its genus. They are native to the southeastern United States. There are three subspecies of C. coccinea.


Scarlet snakes are relatively small snakes, growing to a total length (body + tail) of 14-26 inches (36–66 cm) at adult size. They are a base light gray in color, with a series of black-bordered red blotches down the back. The belly is a uniform light gray color.

The dorsal blotches can extend down the sides of the body, appearing somewhat like banding, which sometimes leads to confusion with other sympatric species such as the venomous coral snakes or the harmless scarlet king snake.


Scarlet snakes are nocturnal, and generally spend their day hiding under leaf litter or fallen logs, and venture out in the evenings to forage for food. They feed on lizards, small rodents, reptile eggs, and even other snakes.


Scarlet snakes are oviparous, generally laying 3-8 eggs per clutch. Breeding occurs throughout the spring months, and eggs are laid throughout the summer and hatch in the early fall.

Geographic distribution[edit]

They are found only in the United States, in: southeastern Texas, eastern Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware; with disjunct populations in New Jersey and central Missouri.

In Indiana, the scarlet snake is listed as an endangered species.[5]



  1. ^ ITIS.gov
  2. ^ Boulenger, G.A. 1894. Catalogue of the Snakes in the British Museum (Natural History), Volume II., Containing the Conclusion of the Colubridæ Aglyphæ. London: Trustees of the British Museum. (Taylor and Francis, printers.) xi + 382 pp. + Plates I.- XX. (Genus Cemophora, p. 213; species Cemophora coccinea, p. 214.)
  3. ^ Williams, K.L. 1967. A Review of the Colubrid Snake Genus Cemophora Cope. Tulane Studies in Zoology 13 (4): 103-124.
  4. ^ Wright & Wright, p. 113.
  5. ^ Indiana Legislative Services Agency (2011), "312 IAC 9-5-4: Endangered species of reptiles and amphibians", Indiana Administrative Code, retrieved 28 Apr 2012 

Further reading[edit]

  • Behler, J.L., and F.W. King. 1979. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. New York: Knopf. 743 pp. ISBN 0-394-50824-6. (Cemophora coccinea, pp. 592–593 + Plates 595, 596, 607.)
  • Blumenbach, J.F. 1788. Einige Naturhistorische Bemerkungen bey Gelegenheit einer Schweizer-Reise. Magazin für das Neueste aus der Physik und Naturgeschichte Vol. 5, Part 2. (Coluber coccineus, p. 11.)
  • Conant, R. 1975. A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America, Second Edition. The Peterson Field Guide Series. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. xviii + 429 pp. ISBN 0-395-19979-4 (hardcover); ISBN 0-395-19977-8 (paperback). (Cemophora coccinea, pp. 211–212 + Plates 30, 31 + Map 152.)
  • Conant, R., and W. Bridges. 1939. What Snake Is That?: A Field Guide to the Snakes of the United States East of the Rocky Mountains. (with 108 drawings by E. Malnate.) New York and London: D. Appleton-Century. Frontispiece map + viii + 163 pp. + Plates A-C, 1-32.) (Cemophora coccinea, pp. 85–86 + Plate 26, Figure 78.)
  • Schmidt, K.P., and D.D. Davis. 1941. Field Book of Snakes of the United States and Canada. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. 365 pp. (Cemophora coccinea, pp. 193–194, Figure 60.)
  • Smith, H.M., and E.D. Brodie, Jr. 1982. Reptiles of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. New York: Golden Press. 240 pp. ISBN 0-307-13666-3. (Cemophora coccinea, pp. 178–179.)
  • Stejneger, L., and T. Barbour. 1917. A Check List of North American Amphibians and Reptiles. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. 125 pp. (Cemophora coccinea, p. 91.)
  • Wright, A.H., and A.A. Wright. 1957. Handbook of Snakes of the United States and Canada. Ithaca and London: Comstock. 1,105 pp. (in two volumes) (Cemophora coccinea, pp. 111–115, Figure 36, Map 13.)
  • Zim, H.S., and H.M. Smith. 1956. Reptiles and Amphibians: A Guide to Familiar American Species. A Golden Nature Guide. New York: Simon and Schuster. 160 pp. (Scarlet snake, Cemophora doliata, pp. 100, 156.)

External links[edit]