manature

ID-ing Snakes In The Garden - Coral Snake

manature
12 years ago

Since we have been discussing snakes in several recent posts, I thought it might be a good time to RE-post some info on helping newbies identify the 3 types of poisonous snakes they might run across in the garden. I put together these posts a couple of years ago, but they disappeared from the archives. Betsy kindly sent me two of the 3 that I had finished, and I will post them each separately today.

This first one is how to identify a coral snake. Hope it is helpful to some of you.

Marcia

**************************************************

Since most of us strive for some wildlife in our gardens, I think we are all interested in the types that might come visiting. So, I don't think this is an inappropriate place for this topic, myself. Hope no one feels differently.

There are several different types of critters that could come into discussion here, but since we were talking about Snakes in the Ferns, let's start with Snakes 101: How To Know If You Are In Mortal Peril When You Spot One Hiding in the Mulch Pile. (Hint: You probably AREN'T.)

I mentioned earlier that there are 3 varieties in central Florida you need to recognize, but that's a teensy bit misleading. I sort of lumped rattlesnakes into one group, and there are actually 2 rattlers here in central Florida and at least 1 more in northern Florida. BUT, really a rattlesnake is pretty much one kind of snake, even with some pattern and size variation, so I hope you won't think I cheated too much. We will get to rattlers later, btw.

First, let me say that ALL of the poisonous snakes in Florida fall into one of 2 categories: pit vipers, with their haemotoxic poisons and coral snakes, which have neurotoxic venom. This just means that most poisonous snakes have venom that acts on the blood and circulatory system, causing really nasty wounds(haemotoxic), while coral snakes have a venom that acts on the central nervous system and can cause paralysis. If anyone wants more info on those aspects, I'll be glad to share what I know.


But I think what most of you want to know is how to tell the "bad guys" from the "good guys." (Using that term loosely, of course, since they are all really good guys...just not always good to have in one's backyard.)

Let's start with the odd man out, the coral snake. I'll divide the different snakes into separate posts so the thread won't get too long if anyone has questions about these, or pictures they'd like to share of these species.


Coral snakes are red, black & yellow snakes, brilliantly marked and beautiful to see. They can grow to about 4 feet or so, but it is rare to see them over 24". I would venture that most of the ones you might be lucky enough to spot would be closer to 18" or smaller. The babies are marked exactly like the adults, so no confusion there. The colorful rings go ALL THE WAY AROUND THE BODY, where in some of the other similar species, they do not. More on that later. Coral snakes feed on other small snakes and lizards, primarily.

Every other band on a coral snake is yellow, so you will see yellow touching red and yellow touching black, but never red touching black. The rhyme is "Red on yellow, kill a fellow, red on black, friend of Jack," but frankly, I find that confusing to try to remember when you have just been startled by a brightly colored snake. For me, the easiest thing to remember is that coral snakes have BLACK noses and NONE of our other mimics do.

Here is a photo of the Eastern Coral Snake for you. Notice that the red and black bands are always separated by yellow ones, and NOTICE THE NOSE IS BLACK. That's a dead give away, every time.



Here is a complete body shot, again displaying the wide black bands separated from the red ones by narrow yellow bands, AND THE BLACK NOSE. Remember, these bands go all the way around, too.



Even when it is a small snake, seen from farther away, the BLACK NOSE is prominent.



One more close up, showing the small head, round eyes, and...you guessed it...THE BLACK NOSE! ;o) You can also see that the belly area is just as colorful as the top of the snake.



Once you learn exactly what the coral snake looks like...always checking for the BLACK NOSE...the mimics won't fool you. But here they are, just so you can see I'm tellin' you the truth, here.

This is the scarlet king snake. Notice that every other band on this snake is black instead of yellow. The black bands DO touch the red ones, and they are very narrow, compared to the coral snake. And then...THERE'S NO BLACK NOSE. So, nothing to worry about. (The nose is in the lower left hand corner.)



Another closer up view of the scarlet king snake. BTW, the bands of color do encircle the scarlet king's body, like they do on the coral snake. But do we see a BLACK NOSE?? Nope! You can pick this one up, if you wanna!



And a sweet little baby...so pretty. BUT IT STILL DOES NOT HAVE A BLACK NOSE, so it is SAFE.



And this is the other coral snake mimic found in Florida, the Florida scarlet snake. It is very similar to the scarlet KING, but usually much paler in color, and the bands of color do NOT encircle the body. Instead, it has a pale belly. AND NO BLACK NOSE. Soooo...you got it...it's SAFE.



Now did you see a theme here, children??? BLACK NOSES ARE BAD. NON-black noses are NOT. And there you have the key to recognizing the Eastern coral snake, also known as micrurus fulvius

Hope this has helped some of you!

Marcia

Comments (53)

  • manature

    Just thought I would add one thing...my snake ID's are for Florida snakes. There are harmless red & yellow snakes out west that have black noses, so please learn how to identify them when traveling in the western states. Also, the cheekstripe on the Florida cottonmouth is not always present on cottonmouths in other states.

    Just want y'all to be able to ID the venomous snakes that might appear in our Florida gardens.

    Marcia

  • garden_hands_feet

    There must be a "litter" somewhere in my yard of these snakes. My cats have found five of them. Today, one of my cats brought one inside the house through the cat door. I can tell that he/she is from the same group of siblings and has grown a lot since the first snake that was found by my cats. Snakes don't unnerve me much, since I grew up on Lake Harney on the mighty St. Johns River. Wild Florida, swamp lands, snake-o-rama! This snake is not the usual harmless-looking snake that I am accustomed to seeing in my yard. I live in urban Central Florida, however my large yard (1/4 acre) is "fluffy" not cookie-cutter. Please, if anyone can help me out, I would really appreciate it. As far as I can Google, he/she looks like either an Eastern Rattlesnake of some variey or a Florida cottonnmouth of some kind. Whatever it he/she is "I do NOT feel friendly" about it.
    Diana

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  • manature

    I've got to look around at baby snakes a bit for you, Diana, in order to be sure. I'm guessing it is a baby black racer. But whatEVER it is, it is NOT one of our poisonous snakes. We only have 4 to worry about in Zone 9, and this isn't any of them. Could you tell me about how long this is?

    Marcia

  • garden_hands_feet

    Marcia,
    Thanks! It is about 12 1/2" long. This is a photo of the first snake caught. Today (a couple of weeks later) the fifth snake caught was about 18" long. Bad kitties!!!!
    Diana

  • wlsflowers

    Marcia,

    Thanks for the snake IDs. Black nose is bad. That one is easy enough for me to remember!

    We've only seen black garden snakes in our yard so far, but you never know what you'll find.

    Wendy

  • manature

    Diana, I have looked at babies of several species, and I still think your pic is of a black racer baby. Totally harmless, so don't worry about it. If you have seen any adults around, that would be a good confirmation of the ID. Here is one of the many pictures I found, and I think it looks pretty much like yours. This is a northern black racer, so the markings may differ a bit, but unless Wayne comes along with a better ID, I'm stickin' with this one.

    Marcia

  • manature

    Wendy, I did a series of harmful snake ID's some time back, but they disappeared from the archives, or I would run them again from time to time for newcomers. You only have to worry about 4 kinds in central Florida, 2 rattlers (eastern diamond back and pygmy), cottonmouth or water moccasin, and coral snakes. And now you know how to tell the corals from the harmless scarlet kings and the like, so that's 1 down, 3 more to go. Do a search here and see if you can find the one on water moccasins, so you don't have to worry about every snake you see in local lakes and ponds. It should come up, as I reposted it recently.

    I am going to have to redo the one on the diamondback, and I still need to do the one on the pgymy. Maybe I will try to combine those two, and then all the snakes we need to worry about in central Florida will be done. I'll have to do ONE more for a tiny part of the panhandle where they get copperheads and timber rattlers, but that's easy.

    You don't have to know what a snake IS to be safe here. You just need to know what it ISN'T. If it's not a rattler, a cottonmouth or a coral snake, it's safe.

    Marcia

  • garden_hands_feet

    I think that it is the one. Whew! I am feeling a lot better.
    Diana

  • presmudjo

    I thank you for your first series on snakes. I did manage to print out 2 of them. I have the stack available and show them to new kids, grandkids, and anyone who asks about snakes to look out for. They have been very helpful. I don't really like my Peterson's book for identifying snakes. The color drawings don't really show well for me to compare. With gardening, you really need to know your snakes! Zippy, my black racer, startles me, as I startle him, when I come off my back porch. I always smile, after my uncontrolled shriek comes out, because I know he is doing a good job for me! I wonder if they have "people shrieks" we can't hear? I don't like snakes, but respect them.

  • ladywingr

    Diana,

    I agree, the baby racers are scary looking at first, so are the young red rat snakes! Marcia has been great with her IDs, we appreciate your expertise very much Marcia!

    Just to jump on the band wagon, here are a couple more pictures of young southern racers...
    {{gwi:884805}}

    {{gwi:884806}}

    Terri

  • Alan_Tampa

    That dead baby snake is without doubt a black racer.

    Harmless, as noted.

    Alan

  • anitaathome

    Marcia:

    I think we are kindred spirits re snakes. So I will add that while I agree that black nose = bad snake, that does not mean kill bad snake. For my situation (no kids and vigilant adults) I would never harm any snake. While I think rattlers are aggresive and need to be removed or - if that is not possible and kids or animals are at risk - killed - coral snakes are different. They are non-aggressive and through a fluke of nature also have a jaw structure that makes it extremely difficult for them to bite a human. I have run across about 5 of them at my home or hiking nearby near the econlockhatchee river and in every instance they have done their best to remove themselves from the premises when I have discovered them. (Who knows how many slinked away without my ever knowing!) I have dogs and no dog has ever even noticed them due to their shy behavior (unlike the racers and rattlers which - unfortunately - make their presence known to my dogs)
    Thanks Marcia for educating folks. We may all have a genetic predisposition to dislike snakes but they really are not so bad. ANd in my opinion I would taka snake over a racoon any day! At least the snakes do not eat my pineapples!

  • manature

    Glad you guys have found some of my posts helpful, at least to put your mind at ease while gardening. As I say, no need to learn every single snake if that's not your interest. But EVERYONE should know how to recognize a venomous snake so they know to give it a wide berth, AND so they know if they are bitten, whether it is an emergency room event or a clean and disinfect and don't worry much event.

    Anita, you are very right that there are no bad snakes. There are merely SOME who pack a wallop via venom. I don't adovocate killing venomous snakes in most instances. Much better to let the snake go his way unharmed. However, if a venomous snake has taken up residence near where children or pets play regularly, and it isn't feasible to have someone remove the snake, sometimes the only option is to find a safe way to dispose of the snake. THIS IS NOT THE BEST CHOICE. It's just that in some instances, it might seem to be the only one.

    One thing I would warn about with coral snakes, though. Yes, they are very shy and retiring snakes, and they do not bite often, but many people think they are rear-fanged snakes who have to find a small spot of skin (like between one's fingers) to chew on in order to inject venom. This is not true. They have fangs right in front like rattlesnakes. But their fangs are short and fixed in place, rather than the long fangs of our pit vipers, which fold up when the snake isn't striking at something. And further more, coral snakes do not have to bite down to deliver venom. Even a slight scratch from one of their fangs can cause envenomation. So don't go picking one up because you think they are docile. They ARE as a rule, but the risk of serious injury is too great to take a risk like that.

    As an example of how docile they are, and I believe I've told this before, my daughter stepped on one BAREFOOTED when she was about 3 years old. I looked down just in time to see her little foot come down right in the middle of the back of a fair sized one. It squirmed like mad to get out from under her foot and took off. If it had been a pygmy rattler or one of our other vipers, she would have been nailed, for sure.

    Again, this doesn't mean you can pick them up. No, no, no! As I'm sure most of you wouldn't, anyway.

    Oh, and the coral snake isn't the only snake with a black nose, by any means. Just the only one of the red, black & yellow snakes in Florida that has one.

    Thanks for the confirmation on the juvenile black racer ID, Alan. I was pretty sure that's what it was, but the picture was showing up kinda dark, and I wanted to double check. The racer babies I've seen lately have been a bit lighter in color for some reason.

    Marcia (I LOVES ME SNAKIES!)

  • goldenpond

    Teach the children regarding striped snakes--------------

    If the head is black,stay back Jack!

  • manature

    Well, I hope the children will do better with the rhyme than I always did. I was always thinking "Red & yellow, kill a fellow?" or is it "Red & yellow, friend of fellow." "Red and black will kill Jack?" or "Red & black, friend of Jack?" The rhymes made me crazy. That's why I settled on the black nose idea. I can remember that. Plus, honestly, once you've seen a coral snake up close, it really doesn't look much like the other red, yellow & black snakes.

    And don't forget, there are harmless snakes a-plenty with black heads and/or noses. The black nose thingie only works with red, yellow and black banded snakes in Florida. I don't know about other eastern states, but out west, there is a harmless coral snake look-alike (milk snake) that also has a black nose.

    Just for general reference, we call a snake with lines of color running lengthwise a striped snake, and snakes with lines of color that run across the snake or encircle it is known as a banded snake. So a yellow rat snake is striped, and a coral snake is banded. Just for clarity.

    Marcia

  • goldenpond

    I know there are some good snakes with black noses but I figure Id rather the kids ran by mistake then picked it up by mistake!LOL

  • pete41

    As far as where Coral snakes can be found-
    In Daytona beach area they are quite common.I live in a 55 plus community have seen many road killed.[low traffic]
    Yes they are Corals.
    Found one in the mulch in a flower bed right under our bedroom window.One in the street in front of a friends house.
    I suspect most of our homes[manufactured] have them under the house.Never heard of anyone bitten but was surprised how common they are.

  • wayne_mo

    Coral Snakes can sometimes do surprisingly well in urban areas because of their fossorial and secretive habits.

    manature, sorry I haven't been around much lately...but to answer the question about the snake in the glove, it is a Scarlet Kingsnake.

    Great informative post as usual!

  • manature

    WAYNE!! Hiya, my herpetorial friend! So good to see you posting! I've missed seeing you pop in on our snake posts.

    While we are on the subject of coral snakes, I'm wondering if you have any current info on their status? I have no sense of them being an at risk species at all, but maybe I've got my head in the clouds. It seems to me like their population is holding, even though they aren't seen often in most places. I've always figured that was due to their shy and secretive nature. What can you tell us about their general population, and do you have any info on the Florida numbers?

    Marcia

  • presmudjo

    As mentioned above, we don't want to kill snakes, just have them go away. When the coral snakes started appearing we called the local serpatarium (sp?) and they sent out some boys who where learning and working on getting licensed to try and find them. Not a successful day, but they sure showed me where to look and watch. They don't want the cotton mouth, but if we start seeing corals again to give them a call. Also if we see a diamond back to give them a call. Haven't seen any here, and hopefully won't! When new developments start clearing, we start seeing critters with suitcases strapped on backs as they are looking for new homes. Seems that way anyway.

  • manature

    Bump...for newbies!
    Marcia

  • bluebonnet77

    Hi, I was doing a search for info on Coral Snakes and came across this post. I have a situation and any info would be greatly appreciated!

    We were grilling in our backyard, and sliding through the grass right next to us was a beautiful Coral Snake. It was definitely a coral, (we wrote the color pattern down and looked it up on the internet - red & yellow were touching, black nose, etc.) and it was gorgeous - very brightly colored, just like the picture at the top of this thread. It was about 21-24 inches long.

    It slid away, but the next day I was worried, since they're so poisonous and we do all our own lawn work, so I called a local wildlife center and they said that these snakes while highly toxic, are shy, and also usually unable to fully open their mouths into something as big as a human, therefore usually unable to deliver a full dose of their venom (for which our local hospitals carry antivenin just in case). I felt better.

    Since we saw that snake, though, we have suddenly noticed some little snakes hiding in the front and garage door frames, between the bottom of the doors and the ground. They seem to be aggressive. We are HOPING that these are not baby coral snakes (which are fully venomous at birth according to Nat'l Geographic!), so I am wondering if anyone out there can help us to identify them.

    They are about 5-7 inches long, and are jet black except for a small yellow ring around their neck, just below their jaw joint (kind of like where the first stripe of yellow could be on an adult coral snake). They also have a yellow underbelly.

    One we saw when we opened the garage door and it slid out from the spot where the bottom of the door had been, and as little as he was, he coiled into a vertical upside-down-question-mark shape and looked like he was going to strike. For better or worse, my husband stepped on him and killed him. A day later, I opened the front door, and the same kind of little snake flew out, apparently he'd been sandwiched under the front door! Disoriented at first, he soon coiled upright just like the other had, and looked as if he were about to strike. I backed away and he slid away.

    If anyone has any information on what kind of snakes these might be, please let me know! Could they be baby coral snakes, and they get the rest of their colors later in life? The adult coral we saw was shy, but perhaps the babies are aggressive as a defense mechanism?

    We have done all our own gardening and have lived in this house for 3 years, and have never even seen a snake on our property before. I am worried, since they seem to be trying to get inside, and we have a cat who loves to play with any critters who get in. I've also been afraid to garden! :(

    Besides identifying them, if anyone has any information on how to keep them at least outside of the house that would also be wonderful.

    p.s. We are not typically snake killers! We love snakes and lizards. Just not so much the poisonous ones.
    Thank you!

  • manature

    Hi, Bluebonnet! Don't worry about your baby snakes. They are ringnecked snakes and don't get much larger than what you are describing, and they are completely harmless. Here's a piccie for you to confirm:

    {{gwi:884807}}

    Also, so you know, coral snake babies look exactly like the adults, only smaller. Their markings are precisely the same. I don't worry about spotting coral snakes unless they are in an area where children play. They are very shy and retiring and not aggressive. However, it is a mistake to assume that they can't bite a person because they can't open their mouths that wide. They don't NEED to open their mouths wide. Even a scratch from their short fangs can be very dangerous. BUT, if you don't pick them up or harrass them, they will choose to escape as quickly as possible. They much prefer flight to fight, and they are very good at hiding quickly.

    Our recent rainy weather may have driven the little ringnecks into seeking shelter under your door, or they may have been hunting for worms or bugs.

    Glad you asked about them. If you have any other questions, give a holler!

    Marcia

  • manature

    Bumping this post up for Florida newbies. Hope it helps!
    Marcia

  • yogacathy

    Thank you, and these pictures are great.

    Cathy :)

  • lynne_melb

    Marcia,
    Thanks so much for posting these again. Your information and that of others on this forum has really helped me. I now consider myself a "Florida gal" and I'm much better about snakes. Although she still startles me, I'm glad that I have a black racer around the yard. I keep telling myself about the rodents et. al. that she keeps away. I've even convinced my next door neighbors that she is beneficial. I've even named her (Blanche, after the character on "Golden Girls") because she seems to have a lot of babies.
    Note to self, do not read coral snake descriptions right before going to bed. I had a technicolor dream about a multi-colored snake. However, even in my dream I told myself that it wasn't a coral snake, because the nose wasn't black. I guess the lesson is learned.

    Thanks,
    Lynne

  • manature

    Hahaha, Lynn! I love it! You used your new found knowledge even in your SLEEP! Way to go! I'm so glad these posts helped you feel more comfortable with your garden snakes, and maybe to feel less threatened if you see one you don't recognize right away.

    Marcia

  • sonjaschlandt_yahoo_com

    Hi Marcia,

    I'm not from Florida, I live in Texas. College Station, Texas just about 90 miles north of Houston. I found your blog as I was researching coral snakes. We found a baby coral snake in our office building today. It was about 6-7 inches in length and very slender. It had the correct banding, yellow, black, yellow, red, yellow, black...so on and it had a black nose. Our offices are next to a residential area but also at the edge of woods and field areas. We scooped it into a box and took it out to the field and turned it loose. Do you have any idea how it could have gotten in our offices? I was thinking since it was so tiny, it may have squeezed through a gap in our glass front doors? It was trying it's best to get away from us as we were trying to scoop it into the box...poor little thing! Then I worried about it today because the field we turned it loose in, was mowed this afternoon. I hope it got away before that happened. Anyway, awesome blog...very helpful info even if I'm not in Florida. :)

    Thanks!
    Sonja

  • manature

    Hi, Sonja! So glad you were able to relocate the baby snake without harming it! Way to go, though I don't usually recommend folks mess with venomous snakes if they aren't trained. However, a baby snake that is as non-aggressive as a coral snake can usually be "herded" out the door, or swept into a container and released safely.

    As to how it got in your building, gosh, the possibilities are many. It wouldn't take much of an opening to squeeze through, and snakes will often seek shelter indoors in bad weather. Also, cats will often bring snakes in and drop them for others to find, frequently unharmed. Wish I could be more helpful in pinning it down for you, but I just don't know. Especially without actually seeing the premises. You'll probably never find another one inside, though, so I wouldn't worry overmuch about it.

    And, the black nose ID works great in Florida, but not necessarily so in other states. The Arizona coral snake, Texas coral snake and eastern (ours here in FL) coral snake all have black noses, but there are some harmless look alikes in other states that do, too. Like the Louisiana milk snake and the New Mexico milk snake...harmless, but both have a black nose. We don't have those two in Florida, so I always try to remind folks that the black nose vs red nose trick is only guaranteed here. Farther west, and you need to look at the snake a bit more carefully.

    And lastly, I wish I could claim this wonderful site as my own personal blog, but it is actually a Florida Gardening Forum on the Garden Web site. A very informative place, indeed.

    Thanks for stopping by!

    Marcia

  • manature

    Bump!

  • sultry_jasmine_nights (Florida 9a)

    This is the best snake thread I've ever read! I made all three of my kids look at the photos and descriptions of the coral snakes so they wouldn't touch them. My youngest son is the worst about doing daredevil stuff..I think he is sufficiently cowed now lol. Thanks for this post.
    ~Lenette

  • sis3

    Thank you so much for this great thread, Marcia!

    Last night DH almost stepped on a small striped snake outside our screened porch. When he asked me if it was venomous I was able to answer immediately and confidently "No, it's a Florida Scarlet snake, it's harmless". ID was so easy - the pretty little snake was a redhead!

  • manature

    Hurray for you, Sis! I'm SO glad you were able to ID the snake right away and know that you had nothing to worry about. That does my heart good!!

    Thanks for letting us know...I love that a snake was spared because of this thread!

    Marcia

  • kathy12632

    My husband found a coral snake in the garden by the front door. At first he wasn't sure but then I researched it on the internet and found your site and others. Our cat was playing with it. My husband dug up the front corner of the garden to find it. It was about 12-14 inches long. Yes I said was, he killed it. I want to thank you for your interesting blogs on coral snakes, we have both learned something today. We will show it to our kids and neighbors. We have lived in our house for 20 years and this is the first coral snake we have seen. Do you think we will see more in the same spot?

  • manature

    Coral snakes don't live in "colonies" or anything, but if you have a good habitat for one, it stands to reason you might find another. Mostly, just be careful when digging in leaf litter, and about putting your hands under rocks or logs, etc, where ANY snake or spider might be hiding. Coral snakes aren't known to be aggressive at all, but it only takes a scratch from one to cause distress, so it's always better to be careful.

    Glad the post helped you to ID your snake, and sorry it was necessary to kill it. Sometimes it seems there is no choice, though I don't recommend it, if it is possible to avoid doing so. I killed one once (yes, ME...MaNature...) because it had made its home under a swing set where my small children played, and I wasn't brave enough at that time to try to relocate it. I've always regretted feeling like I had to make that decision, but it was my best option at the time.

    Marcia

  • billbrandi

    Billy the Snake
    By Bill

    There once was a snake named Billy,
    Whose coloration was driving gardeners silly,
    He was purple and green,
    With a reddish-brown sheen,
    He was covered in spots,
    Colored pink more than not,
    The gardeners were going willy-nilly.

    One said, "Kill him, or Ill be danged",
    Another said he should be hanged,
    A lady in Melbourne got out her hoe,
    And was ready to whack him down low.

    But there was a herpetologist from Gainesville,
    Who put some some quiet to the shrill,
    By explaining that Billy was no ordinary snake,
    That in fact better plants he could make,
    "Just let him loose in your garden", he said,
    "Your roses, veggies and plants will spread,"

    For Billy was no ordinary reptile,
    (Now this will make you smile),
    You see he was a rare weed-eating snake,
    And slithering through the garden in his wake,
    He gobbled up every weed within a mile.

    Now gardeners come from far and wide,
    Just to have Billy spend a day at their side,
    No more weed killer, hoe or rake,
    Not with this weed-eating snake,
    And as I can attest,
    He really gave my back a rest.

  • manature

    Well, Bill...all I can say to that is...does he charge by the hour????? If so, please send him on over. My steenkin' lazy black racers won't life a finger to help with the weeds. Oh, wait. They don't HAVE fingers! ;o)
    Well, be that as it may, they are pretty near useless with garden implements and the like, so I'll be happy to pay the going rate for a Weed Eating Snake. How soon can he be here? Lunch is on me!

    Marcia

  • billbrandi

    Billy is booked all the way through June. If I can find a Mrs. Billy and get some little Billys we might have enough to go around LOL.

    You are right about black racers. I have one in my front planter nicknamed Maurice. Haven't had a palmetto bug in the house since he arrived, but the weeds keep a-coming.

  • lucy23

    Hi, I am in the Northeast Florida area and I noticed a small black snake, around 1-2 feet, but he had what looked like some thick pale white bands on the upper part of his body. He was very skinny. I freak when I see a snake so I ran inside, and I didn't get a good look at his head as far as the shape, but do you think it was a water moccasin or a black racer, we don't live directly near a lake. I thought maybe a baby coral, but after reading here, I see they are born with their colors! I have seen a few coral snakes in the yard and definitely know what they look like! Thanks!

  • manature

    Hard to tell from your description, but my first guess would be a kingsnake of some sort. Harmless. It does NOT sound like anything venomous at all. Young moccasins are VERY colorful with rust and brown bands around their bodies and a bright yellow tail tip. Young rattlesnakes look just like the adult snakes, and so do young copperheads, which are only native to a small area in northern Florida. The pit vipers (rattlers, cottonmouths and copperheads) are not "very skinny," but rather thicker bodied, even when smaller.

    Nothing that I know of that is black with white or cream bands would be cause for worry. If you see it again, try to get a picture and we'll tell you for sure.

    Marcia

  • lucy23

    Hi Marcia, I just found this site and have to say, I really love it. It's very informative. I was walking my dog and I literally almost stepped on this snake. It just laid there, fully extended, not coiled and then finally took off. The bands near the head were actually a grayish white but the rest of the body was black with no other coloring. I will try to get a pic of it to post here, although, truthfully, I am hoping it is long gone by now, lol!!!

  • lellie

    Good job, Miss Marcia!!

    Just wanted to show any newbies another 'good' snake...LOL

    This is a Corn Snake...she's so beautiful!
    I was really hoping I'd see her this year but so far, no luck. :(

  • manature

    Also called a red rat snake, Lellie, and a real beauty! I don't see them nearly as often these days as I used to. A shame, too. They are so gorgeous! Nice pics!

    Welcome to the forum, Lucy. Nice to "meet" you. I'm still thinking eastern kingsnake, because the amount of white bands or "chainlink" patterns on them is so variable. The snakes can be almost completely black, or can be patterned the entire length. And you are right, it is probably long gone. But if it shows up again, maybe you'll have a camera handy!

    Marcia

  • lalalandwi

    I really have enjoyed this thread! Are the other 2 threads gone? I tried searching & couldn't find the ones about Cottonmouth or Rattlesnakes. I would really love reading those as well.

  • manature

    Somehow the other two threads HAVE disappeared, as best I can tell, Lalalandwi. They were pretty comprehensive with lots of photos and info, and I just haven't had time to redo them. I really should, though. We have lots of new members, and IDing snakes seems to be a big concern with Florida gardeners. Maybe next week, if I get some time, I will try to rewrite them. I'm getting to the point where I can't spend much more time outside anyway. It would give me a good project!

    Marcia

  • lalalandwi

    I would really enjoy that! BUT, only if it is not too much work for you.

    I started reading a bit on the U of FL IFAS ext website since I couldn't find those threads here & it isn't nearly as detailed & 'in life' experiences as this thread. The Pygmy rattlesnake has me a little concerned due to it being in residential areas. Not sure how much to be concerned about the others. It's not like I'd approach any of them at will, but if you don't notice them right away because they are smaller or hidden & got too close is scary!

  • usbrits2_netzero_net

    I live in St. Pete (Gulfport) and have come across a lot of different looking snakes lately, as I'm cleaning out a very overgrown yard. I find them always under the leafs, overgrowth. The marking are sliver and gold strips. They are small, but still enough to give me a fright! Today, there was a different kind sunning (a baby)14"? it had yellow under the neck then sliver and half black. Any info on these yard snakes? They all used to be black. Thanks

  • imatallun

    This post cries for Marcia, Ma Earth. Makes me miss her even more!

    In the meantime, I suggest looking at pictures in "Florida's Fabulous Reptiles" at the library or a bookstore ... or visiting your USF rep.

    Strips vs. diamonds seems to be a good thing...but I only know enough to be dangerous!

  • manature

    Hi, DH & Ima! Haven't had much computer time since my mother moved in with us, sorry to say.

    I can't quite place a silver & black snake, DH, but it doesn't sound harmful. One hint when describing snakes for ID purposes: Stripes run longways down a snake's back, from head to tail. Bands run across the snake's back from side to side, often encircling the snake all the way around. We have no venomous snakes in Florida that are striped. Our venomous snakes are banded (like the coral snake) or patterned like the rattlers and cottonmouths.

    So I'm guessing that your snakes are harmless, and if you have had a lot of "black snakes" in the past, they are probably black racers. And young black racers are a lovely greyish color (could be thought of as silvery) with splotches of darker coloring, usually reddish brown. (Scroll up a little ways for a picture of one.) Perhaps that is what you are finding.

    A picture would be great. These little guys are usually very beneficial to your garden, so I'm hoping you will pick up a good reptile field guide to help you feel better about the ones you have found.

    Good luck!

    Marcia

  • Trell

    Marcia,

    Please help me find out what kind of snake I came across today. While I was at the local dog park (near Orlando) I came across a yellow with black stripes snake. It looked to be between 3.5-4 feet long and did not appear at first glance (that was all I gave it out of fear) to be shiny.

    I was about 3 feet from it and didn't know it until my dog almost stepped on it. She obviously didn't see it either. The snake seemed a pit peeved about the whole thing but it decided not to attack and to slowly slither towards ME to get away from my dog. Needless to say, I took off in a different direction real quick and hollered for my dog to follow.

    I am not like you or others on this site. I am not a fan of snakes and am extremely afraid of them. Although, I don't mind the black racers that seem to have taken up permanent residence in MY back yard and they love to procreate often (or so it seems). I have seen a lot less field rats since the racers moved in and that makes me very happy.

    Anyway, can you help me figure out what this snake was? I have spent hours and hours online tonight trying to find it and just can't seem to find anything that looks like it. I am guessing that it is not dangerous to me or my dogs??? I am scared to take my dogs back through those woods that they so dearly love. As soon as I told them, "No more woods until the snakes are gone again," they "told" me to find it if it was dangerous or not and if it isn't that they want to go back again. So that is mostly why I am asking you for your help. We all love the walks but I am afraid of the snakes. Please help me feel safer about going back.

    Thanks in advance for your help.

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