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Eastern Coral Snake (Micrurus fulvius) - Venomous


Photos by J.D. Willson unless otherwise noted

 
species photo range map: SC and GArange map: eastern US
 

Description: Adult eastern coral snakes are slender, medium sized -- 18-30 in (46-76 cm) -- snakes that may reach almost 4 feet (122 cm) in length. They have smooth scales and the anal plate is usually divided. The most obvious feature of an eastern coral snake is the bright body pattern of red, yellow, and black rings in which the red and yellow rings touch each other. The nose is black. Scarlet kingsnakes (Lampropeltis triangulum elapsoides) and scarlet snakes (Cemophora coccinea) are superficially similar but the red only touches the black rings. The coral snake is the only eastern species of snake with a pair of fixed fangs in the front of the mouth.

Range and Habitat: The eastern coral snake is found in scattered localities in the southern Coastal Plain from North Carolina to Louisiana, including all of Florida, where they are most prevalent. They can be found in pine and scrub oak sandhills habitats in parts of their range but sometimes inhabit hardwood areas and pine flatwoods that undergo seasonal flooding.

Habits: Coral snakes are rarely seen in most areas where they occur, probably because they are highly secretive and spend most of their time underground. They typically do not climb trees or shrubs and spend only limited time crawling above ground. Most sightings of coral snakes are in the spring and fall. When threatened, coral snakes often elevate and curl the tip of their tail. They are noted for preying primarily on other snakes and lizards, which they kill by injecting with venom. Eastern coral snakes lay an average of six or seven eggs in early summer and the young hatch in late summer or early fall. Perhaps because of their secretive habits, coral snakes often persist is suburban areas.

Conservation Status: Coral snakes are afforded no federal or state protection, but because of their secretive nature small populations are probably unknowingly destroyed by human development of their habitat.

Pertinent References:

Greene, H. and R. McDiarmid. 1981. Coral snake mimicry: Does it occur? Science 213:1207-1212.

Jackson , D. R., and R. Franz. 1981. Ecology of the eastern coral snake (Micrurus fulvius) in northern peninsular Florida. Herpetologica 37:213-228.

Account Author: Tara Barrentine - edited by Whit Gibbons

 
species photo
 
species photo

Defensive tail curling

 
 

 
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