Scarlet Snake at Donnelley WMA

Scarlet Snake; Donnelley Wildlife Management Area (WMA), Colleton County, South Carolina by

The sun was climbing higher and brighter. The humidity and warm, stifling air was already bearing down on me, causing my feet to stumble through the thorns, briers and saw palmetto. I had been pushing through South Carolina low-country scrub for several hours already.

I was thankful to escape the bush and come out onto a dirt road that cut through the Donnelley Wildlife Management Area. As I walked through this shady mixed forest of hardwood and pine, I didn’t feel like lifting my heavy lens to shoot any birds. I just walked with my head looking down toward the ground. And that’s when I spotted it…!

Scarlet Snake, Cemophora coccinea, coiled on the ground. Red, black and yellow bands sometimes mistaken for venomous Coral Snake. Donnelley Wildlife Management Area, Colleton, South Carolina, USA. Part of the ACE Basin refuges supported by Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.  ©

A glint of color caught my eye amongst all the green vegetation lining the road. A snake! My normal reaction was to reach down and grab it. But the colors were red, black and yellow. I had to take a moment to calculate this one before grabbing. But I quickly recognized it as the harmless pattern of a non-venomous variety. I reached down and quickly grabbed this small Scarlet Snake.

The thought that gave me pause was the possibility of the venomous Coral Snake. Also a beautiful snake of red, black and yellow… but with a deadly bite! I know there are rhymes to help remember the difference. “Red on yellow kill a fellow…” or is it, “Red on black…” or… I just remember that if the black separates the colors, you’re okay.

Scarlet Snake; Donnelley Wildlife Management Area (WMA), Colleton County, South Carolina ©

This cute little snake was quite docile and calmly sat in my hand as I switched from my 600mm lens to a macro lens. A beautiful find! The first I’ve found in my thirty years of herping (snake hunting).

Donnelley Wildlife Management Area; Colleton, South Carolina, USA.
– Sun and clouds with afternoon thunderstorms. High of 86 F.
– Sunrise 6:15 AM, Sunset 8:27 PM
– Day length: 14 hours, 12 minutes (+40s)
– Moon 19% Waning Crescent


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