Information About the Snakes of North America - Eastern Coral Snake

Eastern Coral Snake

Red Touch Yellow, Kills a Fellow - this is the Eastern Coral Snake. You can see that it has red, yellow, and black bands. There are several snakes that mimic the color pattern of this snake, but this is the one with the deadly neurotoxic venom. You can see that in the arrangement of color bands, that red and yellow bands do touch.

Eastern Coral Snake
Here is a photo of a Eastern Coral Snake.

Click the below photographs for high-resolution photos of Eastern Coral Snakes:

Coral Snake Information - There are over 70 different species of Coral Snake that range from the Midwest in the United States all the way down through South America. However, in the United States these snakes are more common in southern states such as Florida, North and South Carolina and Louisiana. In these southern states you are sure to find these snakes living in wooded areas in rotting logs, thickets and meadows that are near water sources. Coral snakes are good swimmers, so they like to live near water if they can. Coral snakes can also live in Southern and Southwest states like Texas, Arizona and New Mexico. For coral snakes that live in these states, they make their homes in scrubland, wooded areas, grassland and farmlands but they can also live in rocky mountainous areas also. The coral snake is very resilient and can survive in a variety of regions.

To learn how to tell the difference between the venomous coral snake and the harmless copycat colored snakes, read my Snake Rhyme page.

Coral snakes are very striking and pretty with their unique color patterns that can be best described as red, yellow, white and black alternating bands. There have been many rhymes to describe the pattern of the coral snake in order to tell if it is venomous or not. There are other snakes that look similar to the venomous coral snake, but are not venomous. A general way (not a definitive way) of telling whether a snake is poisonous or not is saying this little rhyme when you see one: “Red into Black, venom lack; red into yellow will kill a fellow,” or “Red on yellow, kill a fellow; red on black a friend of Jack.” Remember that this is not a hard rule, but a general guideline and it only applies to snakes in North America. Some of the snakes that are regularly mistaken for a coral snake include the scarlet snake, milk snake and the king snake.

Most coral snakes are small and thin, only growing up to three feet long, but have been reported to grow up to five feet long. The coral snakes that live near water will have a flattened tail that they use as a rudder to swim. The fangs of a coral snake are fixed to their upper jaw and do not revert to lying flat when they close their mouths, and this is why their fangs are a bit smaller. However, just because the fangs are small does not mean that their venom doesn’t carry a powerful punch. The coral snake has deadly venom, but because they are elusive there are not very many reported coral snake bites. The snake will use its venom to subdue its prey, but instead of using a strike method, the coral snake will chew its prey to inject the venom. The usual prey of a coral snake includes smaller animals such as lizards, salamanders, skinks, birds, rodents and other snakes.

The coral snake has many predators that affect their life spans. Some of these predators include hawks, owls, coyotes, bigger snakes and larger dogs. A coral snake’s first line of defense is to flee or escape its predator’s grasp, but if it feels threatened it will strike. This is unfortunate for people who engage in a lot of outdoor activities such as hiking and gardening. If you should get bitten by a coral snake, or any other snake, you need to seek medical attention immediately. Fortunately, the coral snake is very elusive, only coming out of its territory during breeding season or after rainstorms. A good thing to remember is they will leave you alone if you leave them alone. Do not go out of your way to rid your property of them (unless you have a nest of them) because chances are that they will move on quickly.

Here are some of my other snake info pages:
Guide to Florida's Venomous Snakes
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
Eastern Coral Snake
Water Moccasin a.k.a. Cottonmouth
Pygmy Rattlesnake
Timber Rattlesnake

Click here for information and an Australia snake directory.

If you are interested in trapping snakes for removal or collection, click the below banner to buy one of my professional snake traps. Easy to buy - arrives in 2 or 3 days.

Eastern Coral Snake
The Eastern Coral Snake (Micrurus Fulvius) is a relatively small and thin snake that is also one of the most well known snakes due to its particularly potent venom. There are two other species of snakes that have very similar color patterns to this species but are harmless, which has led to a number of rhymes becoming taught to children to help tell the difference between the Eastern Coral Snake and its harmless mimic species. Although it is a snake that is known for its potent venom, there are very few snakebites from this species.

Appearance And Diet
Probably the most distinctive aspect of the Eastern Coral Snake is that it is quite bright color of the snake, which is an alternating series of wide black and red bands that are separated by narrower bright yellow bands. This is why the rhyme ‘red touch yellow, kill a fellow’ are used to identify this species, as the mimics will have the red bands touching the black bands. In terms of the snake’s body, it will usually be between eighteen and thirty inches in length, but has a narrow lithe body which also helps to distinguish it from other snakes. The head is generally around the same width as the body, and can be identified as it has a black tip, then a yellow band followed by another black band.

The Eastern Coral Snake will eat a wide range of small animals that can vary depending on what is available in their habitat. This diet can include lizards and other snakes, along with insects, fish, birds and frogs where they are available. Unlike many species that lay in wait to ambush its prey, this snake will slither slowly around the habitat and explore leaf debris and other areas where other animals are likely to be. In order to kill its victim, the Eastern Coral Snake has to hold on to its victim and chew as it only has small fangs, and requires some movement in order to transmit the venom to its victim.

Behavior And Habitat
This species is one that is generally quite secretive and will usually prefer to avoid any contact with humans, and even then it is still reluctant to bite. This means that there are only around 100 bites received by these snakes in the United States every year, while other species such as the ‘pit viper’ bites tend to number in the thousands. The venom of the Eastern Coral Snake is particularly potent, and although it doesn’t deliver the instant pain and swelling that is seen in other species, it can have serious consequences to the human heart if not treated with antivenin quickly. A fatality in 2009 was the first in forty years, and happened as the victim didn’t actively seek medical treatment after the snakebite. This species will usually avoid the heat of the middle of the day, preferring to hunt in the morning and the evening.

In terms of its favored habitats, the Eastern Coral Snake generally prefers woodlands that have a light vegetation rather than very dense shrubs and undergrowth. Oak and pine forests are favored habitats, while in other areas it is also known to live in sandy ridges and creek beds. Much like many of the snake species in the United States the range is in the south and south eastern states, including North and South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana and Florida.

Reproduction And Growth Cycle
The mating seasons for the Eastern Coral Snake are in the spring and in the fall, and much like other species of snake those mating in the fall will hold the sperm until it is a suitable time to fertilize the egg. The males are aggressive towards each other during the mating season, as they fight for the right to mate with a female snake. The female will lay a batch of eggs between May and June, which is usually between six and eight eggs. These are laid in an underground cavity or in a hollow log, and are oblong with a leathery shell.

When the young snakes emerge from their eggs in September they are usually between seven and nine inches in length, and already have the venom to hunt. They grow to maturity within two years, but even the new born snakes are dangerous and should be avoided. The life span of the Eastern Coral Snake is relatively short, with examples in captivity living up to seven years, with estimates that those in the wild will only live for between four and six years.

There are a couple of snake species in the United States that also share a similar color pattern to the Eastern Coral Snake, and these are the Scarlet Kingsnake and the Scarlet Snake. Both of these species tend to have a red face rather than the black face of the Eastern Coral Snake. It is also worth noting the bands of black and red are both touching in the mimic species which isn’t the case with the Eastern Coral Snake.

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