Saturday, 13 April 2013


Don't confuse this harmless king snake with the venomous coral snake

Coral snakes are often brightly colored, reclusive and small in stature when compared to other elapid, or fixed fang, snakes like the king cobra. Several species of coral snake live in and around the US where the rhyme, “Red touches yellow, kill a fellow; red touches black, good for Jack,” is used to differentiate venomous coral snakes from their non-venomous, lookalike milk snake and king snake cousins.

The eastern coral snake species includes five subspecies. Eastern coral snakes live throughout the eastern half of the US from North Carolina to south Florida and Texas. They range in size from 20 to 30 inches, and prefer wooded, sandy and marshy areas where they can burrow underground. Eastern coral snakes are the iconic red, black and yellow-banded beauties with the dangerous neurotoxic bite. However, because of their shy, reclusive nature, eastern coral snake-related deaths are rare, none have been reported in the US since the late 1960s.

The Texas coral snake inhabits the southern US from Texas to Louisiana and Arkansas as well as parts of Mexico. These snakes look very similar to eastern coral snakes. They have red and black rings separated by yellow bands and a rounded, black snout. Texas coral snakes are mainly nocturnal, preferring to hunt other snakes and lizards when the sun sets. They grow between 20 and 40 inches long and make their home in lowland areas, rocky hillsides, wooded canyons, subtropical forests and even urban areas. Like eastern coral snakes, the Texas coral snake needs soft soil, twigs and branches in which to burrow during the day.

Central and southern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico and western Mexico are home to the Arizona coral snake. Smaller than the eastern and Texas varieties, this species of coral snake only grows between 13 and 21 inches in length. This brightly colored snake has alternating bands of red and black, but unlike eastern and Texas corals, these bands are separated by either yellow or bright white rings. Arizona coral snakes inhabit arid and semiarid regions of thorn scrub, desert scrub, woodland, grassland and even farmland.

The large coral snake is larger than its counterparts. The largest snake of this species ever recorded measured 41 inches long. These red, black and yellow or white-banded snakes live mostly in South America in and around the Amazon rain forest. They favor swampy areas, and are more aggressive and active during the day.

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