There are two types of coral snakes in North America, the Eastern Coral Snake (Micruroides euryxanthus
) and the Western Coral Snake (Micrurus fulvius fulvius
). Relatives of the Coral snake include the Cobra
, and Sea Snake
The Western Coral snake lives in the area of the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and northern Mexico, to the southwest corner of New Mexico. The Eastern Coral snake can be found north to North Carolina, and south to Florida. Neither species is known to be found above 5,800 feet.
Adult Western Coral snakes grow to between one and two feet in length, and about the thickness of a pencil. Eastern Coral snakes are generally bigger, as long as three feet.
Both types have a bright, specific banding pattern, distinguishing them from other snakes.
The pattern leads to a rhyme often used to determine whether you're looking at a coral snake, or one of its look-alikes, the Scarlet Snake or the Scarlet King Snake:
Red touches yellow, you're a dead fellow
Red touches black, you're alright Jack
Coral snakes are nocturnal, and mainly hide under rocks, logs, or soil, venturing out rarely except after rains. Their reclusive nature keeps them away from humans under most circumstances. If a Coral snake feels threatened, it will coil its body tightly, with its head buried underneath. They then coil their tail into a flat disc and stick it up in the air, presumably to cause an attacker to think that it is the head.
Bites from this snake are rare, they are not aggressive. They do possess a potent neurotoxic venom (similar to their cousin the Cobra) that causes paralysis and respiratory failure, however. They use this venom to bring down such beasts as small blind snakes. They also may eat shovel-nosed snakes, black-headed snakes and whiptail lizards, sometimes amphibians.
The Coral snake mating season is in the late spring. There is some speculation about another season in the fall as well. Females lay two to three eggs in the summer. The eggs hatch after ten weeks of incubation, in late summer or early fall.