Eastern coral snake Micrurus fulvius fulvius

The classic rhyme is "Red touching yellow, kill a fellow. Nose is black, head is yellow." The coral snake has two Florida look-alikes (the scarlet snake and scarlet kingsnake). Compare all three of them here. The coral snake has a black nose and red bands touching yellow bands. The other two snakes have red noses and no red bands touching yellow bands. Some coral snakes are extremely dark colored and it may be hard to see any red on them at all.

Coral snakes are shy little burrowing snakes that are often found under flower pots or mulch or rotted logs in the garden. They eat even smaller burrowing snakes, and their mouths are so small that they have some difficulty biting larger animals. They are not able to bite through sturdy shoes or thick clothing, and usually do not succeed in biting a cat or dog even when they are chewed to death by these animals. They are not able to strike forward as readily as vipers can, but they can cause life threatening envenomation if a human is foolish enough to pick one up with bare hands. They have very short (3-5mm) fixed front fangs and do not need to chew or to bite you between the fingers to envenomate. Coral snakes can easily be handled with a snake scoop made from a plastic milk jug with the bottom cut off, or a sturdy pair of leather gloves.

Wyeth makes the only North American coral snake antivenom.

Warning: Envenomation symptoms may be delayed for up to 20 hours. All coral snake bites warrant hospital observation and may warrant immediate administration of antivenom.

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