A few weeks ago I was out jogging in my neighborhood, when I came across this beautiful small snake on the side of the road right next to my house. After my initial reaction, which was as usual to suddenly leap about 5 feet into the air, I went back to inspect it. I quickly employed a rule of thumb for dealing with snakes having this sort of coloration - "Red on yellow, kill a fellow. Red on black friend of Jack" - to identify this as a nonpoisonous specimen. I knew there were some coral snake mimics around here, but I had never seen any so I grabbed it and took it in for the photo session and identification. I found that this is a red milk snake or Lampropeltis triangulum syspila
. Here are the Steps I took to ID this snake using the book The Amphibians and Reptiles of Arkansas by Stanley Trauth et al
1. Facial pit absent, pupil of eye round, double row of subcaudal scales extending to near tip of tail.
2. Dorsum with red, black, yellow, and/or white bands and rings.
3. Dorsum with red bands not bordered by yellow; red and black bands or blotches touching; bands not encircling the body; no fangs present.
4. Snout blunt (rostral scale not enlarged), venter with irregular clusters of dark scutes.
5. Dorsum of head red; lateral blotches greatly reduced or absent.
After the pictures were taken I let the snake go of course. With further research, I discovered a few interesting facts:
1. Another variation of the rhyme mentioned above is "Red touches yellow, kill a fellow. Red touches black, venom lack."
2. The Texas Coral Snake, Micrurus tener tener
, the snake I was intending to avoid playing with by using the above rhyme, is the only species of coral snake that lives in Arkansas and is only in the southwestern part.
3. Those rhyming rules only apply to coral snakes living in North America as I found by unsuccessfully applying the rule to these coral snakes
Don't forget to check out Modulator's Friday Ark
.This red milk snake
has been added to the Webiocosm Zoo
Updated 4/17/2010, Just for fun, here is a depiction of the coral snake by the South Park gang:
Labels: biology, Friday Ark, photography, wildlife, zoology