10.22.2005 - Behold! One of central Florida's four venomous species of snakes. This is an Eastern Coral Snake, perhaps 20 inches in length. This snake doesn't really grow to a very large size, rarely much over
30 inches. I caught this snake in a customer's garage. Snakes often slither their way into garages, and then get lost amongst the walls and debris. If you
leave the snake alone, it will probably find its way out after a while, but I understand, in the case of the Coral Snake, why one would not want it lurking about under dryer
sheets. The venom of the Coral Snake is an extremely potent neurotoxin that causes the victim's breathing to become paralyzed.
Although they range throughout the entire state of Florida, these snakes are not often seen, because they're not terribly common, and they are usually shy and reclusive, spending much of their time under heavy debris. Sometimes a heavy rain will flush them out of their deep and dark hiding spots, and sometimes they're simply on the move, which was probably the case with this one.
This is my first Florida Coral Snake, and when the customer called, I doubted the authenticity of the find, especially since several Florida snakes mimic the red-black-yellow color pattern, and I always get calls about "Coral Snakes", even for snakes that don't look similar, such as the Corn Snake. However, this customer seemed fairly certain, and even cited the black nose, which is unique to Corals.
Sure enough, when I showed up, this specimen was waiting for me. It's fairly easy to handle, because it's slow and docile. It's also got a tiny mouth with tiny fangs, and it couldn't bite through a leather glove, let alone the thick glove I'm wearing in the above photo. I'd never handle a pit viper like a rattlesnake or a Cottonmouth - those snakes are strong, fast-striking, ornery, and they've got big fangs like hypodermic needles. But the Coral is quite tame.
That said, no one should ever handle one, and if you do get envenomated, you could wind up in very big trouble, with symptoms such as death, which leads to decreased performance in the bedroom. So if you do see a snake such as the one I'm holding above, do not attempt to hold it yourself. Leave it alone, and everyone is better off. If you do find one in the garage and wish to remove it, it's best to call a wildlife control professional.
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If you've found a Coral Snake, or live in the Orlando, Florida area in general, it can be useful to know about this profile of snake, as it could come in very handy in case you come into an encounter with one.
The first thing for you to know is how to recognize it. When coming across the snake, you'll immediately notice a very vibrant set of red, black, and yellow coloring. This is not unlike other snakes though, and there's more distinction that you'll need to make, without going near it! The reason we say this is because the Coral Snake is among one of the four venomous snakes found in Central Florida. It's a part of the family ‘Elapidae', including Cobras, Mambas, and Sea Snakes.
What distinction can be made to other snakes of the same color, then? Well, the closest copycat snake to the Coral Snake, is the Scarlet King Snake. To distinguish this, there's an age-old nursery rhyme to memorize. ‘Red touch yellow, kill a fellow, red touch black, a friend of Jack'. With the Coral Snake, the red stripes touch the yellow stripes, so it is identifiable as poisonous. The Scarlet King is harmless, and their black and red stripes touch. However, the rhyme is only mainly true for North America, as colors can vary in other regions. This advice, at a glance, can save a life!
Venomous snakes are rare, including this snake, so it is typically not a large threat. They tend to live under heavy debris too, in a niche environment, which also helps in their rarity. This snake is different from other venomous snakes, as its fangs are un-collapsible. The venom sacks are adjacent to the fangs also. The venom it produces is neurotoxic, targeting neuronal deficit. This causes paralysis of breathing and can be fatal. Luckily, the snake is small and timid to bite people, so the bites can be rare. This snake doesn't inject the venom into its victim, it bites it and will wait for the venom to seep in instead. The longer the snake bites, the worse the damage will be. Speaking more of the rarity of the bite from this snake, the only recorded death from this animal was in the 1960s, when the anti-venom for the venom was created. Also, humans are not one of the snakes' natural predators, so they will not go out of their way to target us unless heavily provoked.
This species of snake tends to live in drier and arid areas, often found in Texas and Arizona! Altitude doesn't affect the snake, so it can be found in rockier and mountainous areas.
Biology and Behavior
The coloration of this snake is very distinctive, usually in bands of deep red, black, and strong-colored thin yellow bands throughout. Remember the rhyme we stated earlier, to remember if the snake is poisonous. The venom of this snake is one of the deadliest in the USA, so stay cautious and step back if you recognize the snake. They're small though, so they pose little threat. They often have a hard time even piercing the skin in order to release their venom! A single female snake can lay two to three eggs in the summer, which can hatch in the early fall. You can see an adult up to 20” in the wild and they can live up to 7 years of age. These snakes attempt to avoid contact with anything bigger than it and try to hide when encountering a threat. This is the main reason there are few fatalities.
These snakes will often eat lizards and frogs. If they're able to though, they'll eat other smaller snakes in their vicinity!