A highly dangerous snake that is common in many areas but their
habitats are secretive. Usually encountered in early morning and evening hours,
coral snakes can be found in any environment.
Average length 24 inches, maximum length 47½ inches
The first color (starting with the head) on the coral snake is black and the coral snake has red and yellow bands that touch.
|Seeing a black head is not a 100% accurate method when determining whether or not a snake is a type of poisonous coral or a king snake, etc. Remember the old saying: "red and yellow will kill a fellow." What this means is that RED AND YELLOW ARE NOT SEPARATED - the red and yellow bands touch. The California Mountain King Snake has a black head but does not have red and yellow bands that touch.|
The venom of the Coral Snake is neurotoxic, paralyzing the nerves. Often handled with impunity by reckless persons. Usually hangs on while biting, injecting as much venom as possible. There is a high percentage of fatalities from the coral snake bite. Treatment should start as soon as possible.
About three species of coral snakes are found in the United States. All are
small, brightly colored snakes. The venom is neurotoxic and attacks the nervous
system. Coral snakes have small grooved fangs which are permanently erect.
They usually hang on after biting. Coral snake antivenom is produced for these
species in this country.
The Arizona Coral Snake (Micruroides) is found only in the Southwestern United States. The venom appears very toxic. The bites are very rare and there is no antivenom for this species.
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Scarlet King Snake
Lampropeltis t. elapsoides
The Scarlet king snake is often called the "false coral" because of the similarity of many colors and patterns. Again, the first color on the Scarlet King Snake is red; the coral snake starts with black.
Average length 12 inches; maximum length 18 inches.
California Mountain King Snake
Another rare and harmless snake that can be confused with the Coral
Snake is the California Mountain King Snake.
The following information was taken from
CaliforniaHerps.com, with their permission:
|California Mountain King Snake:
Considered harmless to humans. (There are no venomous snakes in California that can be mistaken for this snake, but the similar-looking Arizona Coral Snake, found in Arizona, is venomous and dangerous.)
|20 - 50 inches long (51 - 127 cm.) Average length is 24 - 30 inches (61 - 76 cm.) Hatchlings are 7 - 11 inches in length (18 - 28 cm.)|
|A medium-sized slender snake with a head not much wider than the
cylindrical body with smooth shiny scales. The scale count at mid-body is
usually 21 - 23.
Black, red, and white or off-white to pale yellow rings circle the body. Bands vary in width, often depending on the population. The red bands can vary in shade from blood red to orange, to pink. Frequently, the black bands widen and cross over the red bands on the back. Occasionally there will be little red visible, especially in the central high Sierras. Black and white snakes are sometimes found. The bands continue across the belly, but the coloring is paler, more faded in appearance, and the bands are more irregular, often encroaching into adjacent bands. The nose is typically black, occasionally with some blotches of red, followed by the first band which is white.
A red band surrounded by two black bands is referred to as a "triad." Triads counts (excluding the tail triads) are one of the methods used to determine subspecies, along with the location of the first white ring.
Secretive, but not rare in suitable habitat. Spends most of the time
underground, under surface objects, or inside rock crevices. Occasionally
seen active on the ground in the daytime, especially near shaded streams
on hot sunny days. Active during the day at high altitudes during times of
low nighttime temperatures (which is typical habitat.) When temperatures
are more moderate, it can be crepuscular, nocturnal, and diurnal. During
very hot weather, activity is primarily nocturnal. This snake is normally
active at temperatures between approximately 55 - 85 degrees.
[ We would like to thank Paul Raffaeli for bringing the California Mountain King Snake to our attention. It would be wrong to kill one of these rare snakes if it is mistaken for the poisonous Coral Snake.]
The scarlet snake is a rather uncommon burrowing snake, rarely bites when handled. It is ringed with red, black and yellow. Note that the first color on the nose is red; the coral snake starts with black.
Average length 16 inches; maximum length 2 feet.
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Our thanks and gratitude to Dr. Andrew Kouloulis, noted herpetologist, for permission to use his research and pictures provided on these pages. Information taken from Dr. Kouloulis' Poisonous Snake Chart.