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Eastern Coral Snake, Coral Snake

VENOMOUS

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snake

Scientific name: Micrurus fulvius (LINNAEUS 1766)

* Currently accepted name

Synonym:

* scientific names used through time

  • Coluber fulvius – LINNAEUS 1766
  • Elaps fulvius – FITZINGER 1826
  • Vipera fulvia – HARLAN 1827
  • Micrurus fulvius – STEJNEGER & BARBOUR 1917
  • Micrurus fulvius fulvius – SCHMIDT 1928
  • Micrurus fulvius barbouri – SCHMIDT 1928

Description: Average adult size is 20-30 inches (51-76 cm), record is 47.5 inches (121 cm). Body ringed with black, yellow, and red; narrow yellow rings separate the wider red and black rings. The rings continue around the belly of the snake. From tip of snout to just behind the eye the head is black, followed by a wide yellow ring. The tail is black and yellow, without any red rings. The red rings usually contain black flecks and spots. The scales are smooth. The pupil is round. The color pattern of the young is the same as the adults.

drawing

A. Top of the head
B. Side of head
C. Smooth scales
D. Elongated scales below the tail (subcaudal scales) are typically divided
E. Underside of the head (chin and throat)
F. Front (face view) of the head

Range: The Eastern Coral Snake occurs throughout Florida, south into the Upper Florida Keys. Outside of Florida, it is found north to southeastern North Carolina and west to eastern Texas and northeastern Mexico.

Habitat: This species occupies a variety of habitats, from dry, well–drained flatwoods and scrub areas to low, wet hammocks and the borders of swamps. They are quite secretive and are usually found under debris and in the ground, but occasionally they are found in the open, and have even been seen climbing the trunks of live oaks. Good numbers of them are turned up when pine flatwoods are bulldozed, particularly in southern Florida.

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Comments: VENOMOUS. Because the Eastern Coral Snake is a relative of Old World cobras, people believe its bite nearly always is fatal. While its bite is serious and should receive immediate medical attention, statistics suggest that the bite of the Eastern Coral Snake is less threatening than the bite of an Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake.

The Eastern Coral Snake feeds on lizards, other snakes, and frogs.

Comparison with other species: Because the Eastern Coral Snake is also banded with red, black, and yellow or white, two harmless snakes in Florida, the Scarlet Kingsnake (Lampropeltis elapsoides) and Scarlet Snake (Cemophora cocinnea), are often confused with the Eastern Coral Snake, but it is easy to distinguish between these three snakes. The Eastern Coral Snake has a black snout, while both the Scarlet Kingsnake and Scarlet Snake have red snouts. Also, on both the Eastern Coral Snake and Scarlet Kingsnake the rings go all the way around the body, but the Scarlet Snake's has a completely solid light-colored belly. All three of these snakes are beneficial to the environment and humans, and therefore should not be harmed.

If you have difficulty separating the harmless mimics from the Eastern Coral Snake, the following mnemonic rhyme will identify the Eastern Coral Snake for you:

'If red touches yellow, it can kill a fellow' (Eastern Coral Snake)

'If red touches black, it is a friend of Jack' (Scarlet Kingsnake or Scarlet Snake)

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