Florida's Venomous Snakes

Part 3

The Coral Snake

The coral snake’s venom is the most potent of any North America’s snakes. This colorful species is closely related to the notorious cobra, krait, and mamba. The coral is shy and secretive, seldom aggressive unless startled, tormented or hurt. It has short fangs and a small mouth. It does not strike like the pit vipers but bites and chews to inject its poison. Especially vulnerable parts of the human anatomy to coral snake bites are fingers and toes. Most bite occur when a "pretty little snake" is picked up by someone who does not recognize it as a venomous one.

The coral snake is often confused with he harmless scarlet king snake, which it closely resembles. Both snakes are brightly colored with red, black and yellow bands. A helpful rhyme goes: ”red touch yellow, kill a fellow, red touch black good for Jack”. The coral has a black nose, the kingsnake a red nose.

The coral snake is a small - sized, slender - bodied reptile with the narrow head and round eye pupils characteristic of non - poisonous species. The largest coral snake on record measured 47 inches, but most specimens are less than 24 inches in length.

Found more or less commonly throughout Florida, the coral inhabits pine woods, pond and lake borders and the jungle - like growth of Florida’s hammocks. If favors such places as rotting log, piles of decaying vegetation, heavy fallen leaf covered and old brush piles.

It noses about through decaying vegetation and humus to catch and feed on other snakes, lizards, frogs and other small animals. The coral snake lays eggs, usually six or less in number that hatch in 60 to 90 days.

First aid for venomous snake bites

  • 1. Get away from the snake. From a safe distance take a look for a large triangular head, rattles, a black nose on a red, yellow and black banded snake.
  • 2. Remove jewelry near the bite site.
  • 3. Keep bitten part at or below heart level.
  • 4. DO NOT apply ice to bitten area. Cold therapy on top of envenomated ski worsens the damage.
  • 5. NOT NOT apply a tourniquet, snake venom causes swelling and causes deformities due to poor circulation.
  • 6. DO NOT cut and suck the bite site. This causes damage, increases the chance of infection, and removes very little venom.
  • 7. Remember that “dead snakes can bite” due to a reflex action.
  • 8. The best first aid kit for a snake bite is $.50 or a set of car keys. WHY? To call or go for help. Every snake bite should be medically evaluated.

DO NOT CATCH OR HANDLE A SNAKE UNLESS YOU ARE CERTAIN IT IS NOT POISONOUS!