Florida has some of the richest and most diverse ecosystems in the United States, with more than 1,350 miles of coastline, not including its many barrier islands. Florida is home to a vast array of animals that live both on the land and in the sea. One type of animal that can be found in virtually every habitat is snakes. There are around 50 native species in Florida, although only six of them are venomous. Snakes often have some of the most unusual patterns and the brightest colors, but few are more vibrant than red snakes. Just look at our eight subjects in this picture preview:
So, join us as we reveal the fascinating facts about the red snakes in Florida!
1. Red-Bellied Snake
One of the smallest red snakes in Florida is the red-bellied snake which is only 8 to 10 inches long. Red-bellied snakes are small and thin and are usually a reddish to reddish-brown color with faint stripes down their back. As their name suggests, their bellies are bright red, although some are occasionally orange or yellow. Red-bellied snakes are found in a variety of habitats, although they often prefer to shelter underneath leaves, logs, and rocks. They are nocturnal and feed mainly on earthworms and slugs. Red-bellied snakes are not aggressive or venomous, although they release a strong smell from two scent glands which are located at the base of their tail.
2. Mud Snake
Mud snakes are thick-bodied snakes with stunning black and red-colored scales. They typically have black bodies with bright red bars stretching from their belly up onto their sides, and their tail ends with a pointed scale. Mud snakes are some of the longest snakes in Florida and grow to be between 40 and 54 inches long. They are almost completely aquatic and rarely leave the water, living in slow-moving freshwater habitats such as rivers, lakes, canals, and swamps. Within these habitats, areas with muddy bottoms and thick vegetation are preferred. Mud snakes mainly eat salamanders, although they also eat other amphibians such as frogs. They are not aggressive, but they sometimes prod their prey or attacker with the pointed tip of their tail. This has led to them being called “stinging snakes,” despite them being unable to sting.
3. Black Swamp Snake
Another stunning red and black snake is the black swamp snake which is endemic to the southeastern US. Black swamp snakes are small – reaching only 10 to 15 inches long – with black bodies with bright red bellies. They are mostly aquatic snakes, with their preferred habitat being swamps with thick aquatic vegetation. Rather than laying eggs, black swamp snakes are ovoviviparous and give birth to between 2 and 15 live young in shallow waters. Juveniles are around 4 to 5 inches long at birth. Black swamp snakes feed mainly on small fish, frogs, salamanders, leeches, and earthworms.
4. Scarlet Kingsnake
A stunning red snake in Florida is the scarlet kingsnake. Like all kingsnakes, scarlet kingsnakes are non-venomous. They are usually 16 to 20 inches long and have shiny scales in a tricolor pattern. Scarlet kingsnakes are red, black, and yellow. Black always separates the red and yellow, which is how kingsnakes are distinguished from venomous coral snakes with the saying, “red on yellow kills a fellow, red on black a friend of Jack.” Scarlet kingsnakes are secretive and nocturnal. They are excellent climbers but are often found underneath the bark of rotting pine trees or in their stumps while hunting for their prey. Scarlet kingsnakes eat lizards and other small snakes and usually kill by constriction.
5. Florida Scarlet Snake
A subspecies of the scarlet snake, Florida scarlet snakes are endemic to Florida. They are usually between 14 and 20 inches long and have small, pointed heads. Florida scarlet snakes typically have white or grey bodies which are covered with large red blotches that are bordered with black – meaning that the red and white/grey never touch each other. They are similar to the scarlet kingsnake but can be distinguished by the white rather than yellow patches. Florida scarlet snakes are shy snakes that like to burrow in soft soil and underneath rocks and logs. They are non-venomous, and their main diet is rodents, lizards, and reptile eggs. The smallest eggs are swallowed whole, while larger ones are squeezed to push out the contents or broken open using their head and sharp teeth.
6. Ring-Necked Snake
Another small snake is the ring-necked snake which is only 8 to 14 inches long. Ring-necked snakes are unique as they are black across the top of their bodies, but their bellies are bright red or yellow-orange, or even red at one end and fading to orange at the other. As their name suggests, they also have a ring of color around their neck. Ring-necked snakes live in a variety of habitats, although areas with plenty of vegetation or cover for them to hide under are preferred – such as woodlands and rocky hillsides. When threatened, they wind their tail into a tight coil to expose their bright underside as a warning. Although they are not truly venomous, ring-necked snakes immobilize prey such as salamanders using a mild venom-like substance that is produced by the Duvernoy’s gland and injected by two rear fangs.
7. Corn Snake
A popular non-venomous red snake in Florida is the corn snake which is often kept as a pet. Corn snakes are 30 to 48 inches long and usually have brown or orange bodies with large red blotches and two black stripes on the underside of their tails. In the wild, corn snakes prefer habitats such as overgrown fields, forest openings, trees, and abandoned farms. They get their name due to their presence around grain stores where they feed on rodents such as rats and mice. They are also beneficial to farmland as they keep the rodent populations in check, which would otherwise damage crops. Corn snakes are not aggressive, although if they are threatened, they vibrate the tip of their tail as a defense and a warning.
8. Eastern Coral Snake
The one venomous snake on the list is the eastern coral snake. Eastern coral snakes are 20 to 30 inches long, are red, black, and yellow, and are easily confused with the non-venomous kingsnake. However, the yellow borders the red on most eastern coral snakes, which, as mentioned earlier, is how the two are distinguished.
Eastern coral snakes prefer upland tropical regions in Florida. They often live in pine and scrub oak forests and open regions without much vegetation. Their main diet is frogs, lizards, and snakes (including other coral snakes). Eastern coral snakes are extremely venomous, and bites cause slurred speech, blurred vision, paralysis, and respiratory distress in humans. Although they contain enough venom to kill five people, bites are incredibly rare.
Summary of 8 Red Snakes in Florida:
|Length in Inches
|Underneath leaves, logs, and rocks
|Rivers, lakes, canals, and swamps
|Black Swamp Snake
|Swamps with thick aquatic vegetation
|Underneath the bark of rotting pine trees or in their stumps
|Florida Scarlet Snake
|Burrows in soft soil and underneath rocks and logs
|Areas with vegetation or cover for them to hide under, like woodlands and rocky hillsides
|Overgrown fields, trees, forest openings, and abandoned farms
|Eastern Coral Snake
|Pine and scrub oak forests and open regions with little vegetation
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/bugphai
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