Scarlet King Snakes: Habitat, Diet, and 6 Interesting Facts

Scarlet kingsnakes are a beautiful snake that can also be quite fun to own. I got curious about the climate and ecosystem that they live in, what they eat, and some other fun things that are good to know about this gorgeous reptile. I did some research, and here’s what I found. 

What are some things you should know about scarlet kingsnakes? Scarlet kingsnakes are shy, love hot environments, are nocturnal creatures, and do not make great pets. They are a smaller species of kingsnake but manage to eat other species of snake. They also are nonvenomous and oviparous. 

To read more in-depth about these amazing snakes, feel free to read on and see what else I found out about scarlet kingsnakes.

Habitat

Scarlet kingsnakes originate from the Southeastern portion of the United States. They are specifically in the states of Florida, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. They have been known to also be spotted in states further north and around these specific states, but this is where they thrive and initially reside.

These states have an ecosystem of pine flat woods, hydric hammocks, pine savannas, mesic pine-oak forests, prairies, cultivated fields, and suburban habitats. These snakes are often found in suburban neighborhoods hiding in shrubbery and even possibly in someone’s pool. These snakes really like to hide under loose leaves or under rotting bark of pine trees. 

These snakes like to spend a lot of their time underground because it is cooler and undisturbed.

This helps them to stay safe from the dangers of predators and larger animals as well. They generally spend the days underground and then come out for food or whatever they need at night.

Diet

Scarlet kingsnakes’ diets consist of small reptiles. The reptiles this snake often will eat are frogs, lizards, other small snakes, and toads. Out of these reptiles I’ve listed, Scarlet kingsnakes mostly eats a type of lizard called a skink.

The Skink Lizard is the Scarlet Kingsnakes’ favorite meal!

The scarlet king snake will also eat eggs and small rodents or mammals such as mice. However, it is much less likely that it will eat these animals over its reptilian options due to its preference and the easier accessibility of the other species in its habitat.

These snakes are quite picky with their diet and hard to feed because of their very small size as well. Sometimes, these snakes won’t eat if they aren’t a fan of what’s presented to them, so the owners will have to rub the pinky in lizard droppings or even just encase it in a dead lizard in order to trick the snake into eating thinking its a lizard.

Even just because of the difficult feeding habits, these snakes are not recommended unless you are an expert and experienced snake owner.

Wanna know some more about these awesome snakes? Below are six interesting facts I’ve come up with for this particular species of snake.

Fact #1: They are Super Shy

Scarlet kingsnakes are a very shy snake which results in them hiding a lot.  Often times when a human or other animal or something starts in the general direction of one of these snakes, it will slither away and hide.

In order to stay out of sight, the scarlet kingsnake is nocturnal and stays underground. This limits human contact to nearly nothing and also helps to protect these small snakes from other, bigger animals and predators. The scarlet king snake will also hide in loose leaf piles, under rocks, under or in between rotting bark pieces on the ground, or even in or under rotting wood that has fallen.

The scarlet kingsnake is shy, which helps to make them little threat to humans. These snakes are more scared of you than you are of them, so you shouldn’t have a problem with them if you let them live in peace.

Fact #2: They are Nocturnal

Due to these snakes being so shy and timid, they are also nocturnal. This snake will generally stay underground throughout the day. This is so that they are out of sight and out of mind of their predators, and they are also away from the commotion of humans. They are free to hunt peacefully.

During the night, the scarlet king snake will regularly hunt for its food, the skink lizard, at night. You may also see the scarlet king snake slithering across your suburban neighborhood street during these hours. You may also see this snake out and about after a heavy rain.

Fact #3: They are Very Hard to Keep as Pets

The scarlet kingsnake is not recommended as a beginner pet snake, by any means. This is because of how hard these snakes are to take care of.

These snakes are extremely picky, very tricky, and master escape artists.

Starting with being picky, these snakes are very specific about what they will and won’t eat for their food. They really like the skink lizard and won’t eat anything else most of the time because it likes it. This makes feeding time super difficult when you can’t get these specific lizards for your snake to eat.

It is common for these scarlet king snakes to just flat out refuse food if it can’t get a live, skink lizard. Because of this, sometimes you have to trick the snake into thinking whatever you are actually feeding it is the lizards it wants instead.

There are a couple of ways you can trick a scarlet king snake into thinking its food is, in fact, a skink lizard and not the pinky you secretly got instead because you couldn’t find a live skink lizard this time. One of these ways is to rub the pinky with skink lizard droppings before trying to feed it to your snake. This will make the mouse smell just like the lizard would which makes it much more appealing to your picky, scarlet king snake for it to eat.

The other way you can trick your scarlet king snake is by shoving the little pinky inside of the corpse of a dead skink lizard. This will give the snake the proper food it needs to survive while also giving the snake the impression that you are feeding it a skink. The pinky will smell like a skink lizard resulting in the scarlet king snake wanting to eat it.

The scarlet king snake is known for being a great climber. These snakes can scale anything from trees to tank walls, and they are quick, too. This could be a problem because it gives them a gateway to being able to crawl through the top of their tanks if the occasion arises.

Another reason these snakes are hard to care for is because they are known for being master escape artists. They are good at finding ways to get out of their cages. This results in the owners having to get tanks with securable lids.

Without lids that lock and secure in place, the owner would run the risk of their precious scarlet king snake getting out and wandering around. This would not be good and no one wants this to happen. Especially because they are great hiders, the snakes would possibly never be found if it got out.

Fact #4: They are the Smallest Snake of Their Species

The scarlet king snake is known for being the smallest breed of king snake. The scarlet kingsnake has a fully grown adult size of sixteen inches (16 in.) to twenty inches (20 in) in length. That is just a mere foot and a half! That is SUPER SMALL! When these snakes are babies they hatch at the extremely small size of three inches (3 in) to seven inches (7 in).

Due to their small size, these snakes have always been thought to be a part of the milk snake species. The coloration of the scarlet king snake is also similar to those colors of the milk snake. However, the scarlet king snake was later tested on and established as a member of the king snake family. They were then established as some the smallest king snakes to exist. Generally, kingsnakes are sized at about three feet (3 ft) to four feet (4 ft) in length. That is over twice the size of the scarlet king snake! Crazy!

Fact #5: These Snakes Lay Eggs

Scarlet kingsnakes are oviparous which means they are the type of snake that lays eggs. A female scarlet king snake will lay her eggs within the months of March to June. At this point. these eggs will then incubate for about for a couple more months until they hatch.

The scarlet king snake generally gives birth to about two to nine eggs at once. Fun fact about the eggs, also, is that the temperature of the eggs usually helps determine the gender. If the egg is warmer temperature, it is more likely to be a male. If the egg is a cooler temperature, it will be more likely to end up a female.

When these eggs are finally ready after a couple months of incubation, they will all hatch. These baby snakes are very small too. These baby scarlet king snakes are generally a size of about three inches (3 in) to seven inches (7 in) in length. These baby snakes will also mature within 2 years of their lives and can live as long as fifteen (15) years.

Fact #6: Scarlet Kingsnakes are Mistaken for Being Venomous, But Aren’t

The scarlet king snake has very similar patterns and coloring to the very dangerous and venomous coral snake. This results in the scarlet king snake getting a mistaken bad reputation because it is similar to the deadly coral snake that no one wants to be around.

The coral snake is a very commonly known snake for its danger and potent venom. This snake has similar striping in black, red, and yellow colors which is why it is seen as so similar to the scarlet king snake. You know that old phrase “Red and yellow, kills a fellow. Red and black, you’re good Jack”? This phrase came about to identify coral snake so people knew whether or not the snake they were looking at was venomous like the coral snake is.

The scarlet kingsnake has stripes in the colors red, black, and off-white. This is why so many people mistake it for the coral snake. The off-white on the scarlet kingsnake looks similar to the yellow on a coral snake. As a result of this, people often stay away from any snake with this general coloring as a safety precaution.

The scarlet king snake is, in fact, not a venomous snake, though. The scarlet kingsnake is a very mild-mannered and shy snake as well, as I have mentioned. You usually don’t see the scarlet king snake anyway due to it being so shy and it being a nocturnal animal anyway, though.

What if I Do Want a Scarlet Kingsnake as a Pet?

If reading about these particularly elusive kingsnakes has piqued your interest and made you want to get one of these stripy snakes for yourself, kudos to you and good luck. As this is a very difficult snake to keep as a pet, you’ll need it.

The top three reasons this snake is difficult to keep as a pet are as follows:

  1. They are tiny compared to most snakes and can slip through any crack left in a terrarium. Even tiny holes suffice for these escape artists. Houdini would be proud of them.
  2. They don’t eat typical snake food (pre-killed and thawed mice or rats). Due to their petite size, they require other, smaller reptiles and smaller mammals than mice. They sometimes eat bugs, too, if they’re meaty enough for them. Getting food for them might be difficult.
  3. They are more active than other snakes and purposefully move in jerky motions, which they do to try to scare off predators with their distracting coloration. Since they are nocturnal, these movements are usually at night, so if you’re a light sleeper and you are wanting to keep the snake terrarium in your room, it might be a little tiring.

Despite this list, a lot of people still like having scarlet kingsnakes as their chosen pet. If you’re one of those people and you want to know a few things about keeping these red and black snakes as pets, here are a few tips and tricks I’ve compiled from some research of why people like these snakes and how they recommend taking care of them.

  • They can live 20-30 years in captivity. Apparently, smaller doesn’t mean weaker, and they’re determined to live just as long as their bigger cousin snakes.
  • Scarlet kingsnakes don’t like bright lights. They’re nocturnal due to their sensitivity, their shyness toward humans and even other animals, and because they can hunt smaller prey at night. If you want one of these guys, a heat lamp glaring at them from above isn’t the way to go.
  • They only grow up to a foot and a half in length, so you don’t need a massive snake enclosure to clean out all the time.
  • In their enclosure, you’ll want to have a wide and shallow water dish available at all times, a heating pad and a cooling pad on opposite sides, lots of substrate (think cypress or high-quality bark) for burrowing, and lots of other things for them to hide in and play with, such as branches and log hiding homes.
  • They are not prone to biting. These little guys know they’re not venomous and they can’t really hurt anybody. They’re mini constricting snakes, so if you pick it up and it squeezes your arm when it’s nervous, don’t be surprised. If it does bite you, it won’t hurt at all and you just need to wash the spot it bit.
  • If you decide to breed these guys, they lay 2-9 eggs during the summertime after mating in the spring, and their eggs hatch about fifty days after being laid. 
  • The temperature you keep scarlet kingsnake eggs at can actually affect what gender the hatchling might be. Warmer for males, and cooler for females, but always around the 65-80 degree range with humidity around 70%.
  • They prefer their cage cooler at night and warmer during their “day”, as this mimics their natural habitat. During their “daytime”, natural light is the best option, as bright lights disturb them.

These were just some fun, quick facts you might want to know about scarlet kingsnakes as pets, if you’re a big fan of them and prefer this snake over any other pet. These little guys may be smaller, but they can make good pets for those who really like them.

Related Questions:

Are scarlet kingsnakes harmful to humans? The scarlet kingsnake is not harmful to humans in any way. These snakes are nonvenomous and are very mild-mannered.

Are scarlet kingsnakes aggressive? The scarlet kingsnake is not aggressive. If the snake senses any sign of life around it that could potentially be a predator it hides or slithers away. This snake is also nocturnal so you most likely won’t see it out and about anyway.

What are the scarlet kingsnakes’ predators? The scarlet kingsnake’s predators are usually the red-tailed hawk and often times coyotes as well.

Danielle Newsom

Hey guys! I am an English major studying in Southeastern Idaho and loving every second of it. I love blogging and strive to help others with my colleagues to have ease of access in one place to anything they may want to know about snakes. I have some experience with snakes and have done crazy amounts of research in the areas I lack to help you guys get the best quality answers possible.

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