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Range Map


Cemophora coccinea

Occurs across most of Tennessee except northwestern section, western Highland Rim, and upper East Tennessee. One subspecies, Northern Scarletsnake (C. c. copei), recognized in Tennessee.

Description: A slender, small to medium-sized snake (14.0 to 20.0 inches in length) with smooth scales and a striking color pattern. Wide red bands, bordered in black, are separated by cream or light yellow all the way from head to tail. Small, dark spots may dot the lighter areas on older specimens. Head is red and pointed. Belly is white or cream colored. Males have longer tails. Young are similar to adults.

Similar Species: Scarlet Kingsnake, Red Milksnake, and Eastern Milksnake all have their color pattern extending onto the belly.

Habitat: Prefers pine or hardwood forests with sandy or loamy soils, for easier burrowing. Found beneath logs, rocks, leaf litter, or trash such as boards or tin.

Diet: Primarily eggs of other reptiles, especially lizards and snakes; occasionally small mice, lizards, or snakes.

Breeding information: Very little known. Mating probably occurs in spring. Between 2 and 9 white, elongated eggs are laid underground during the summer. Eggs most likely hatch in late summer or fall.

Status in Tennessee: Unknown due to the secretive nature of this species.

Fun Facts:

  • The Scarletsnake is a mimic of the venomous Coral Snake, which does not occur in Tennessee.
  • Scarletsnakes have sharp, enlarged teeth in the back of their mouth used to pierce shells of large eggs that cannot be swallowed.

Best places to see in Tennessee: Pine or mixed pine-hardwood stands with sandy soils in the southeastern section of the state.

For more information:

Atlas of the Reptiles of Tennessee

The Snakes of Tennessee web site


Conant, R. and Collins, J. 1998. Peterson Field Guides: Reptiles and Amphibians (Eastern/Central North America). Houghton Mifflin Company, New York. 616pp.

Jensen, J. B., Camp C. D., Gibbons, W., and Elliot, M. J. 2008. Amphibians and Reptiles of Georgia, University of Georgia Press, Athens, GA. 575pp.

Johnson, T.R. 2006. The Amphibians and Reptiles of Missouri. The Missouri Department of Conservation, Jefferson City, MO.