Eastern Coral Snake – Most Potent Venom in North America

“The eastern coral snake is throughout Georgia and has the most potent venom of any of North America’s snakes,” explains Weebly Snake Facts.

Coral snakes are in the Elapidae family, as are cobras, sea snakes and black mambas. There are about 70 species of New World coral snakes and about 15 species of Old World coral snakes.

This is the last of a series all about the six venomous snakes in Georgia and some general information about each. Read all about the Eastern Coral Snake.

Description

Coral snakes are slender, small, vibrantly colored and highly venomous snakes. Only some of the species have elements of coral coloring. All of the species have eye-catching patterns and colors with red bands flanked by yellow bands.

The best way to identify a coral snake is by its head, which is blunt and black to behind the eyes, and its bands that completely circle the body.

Size

They typically are between 18 and 20 inches long with some species reaching 3 feet. The species average adult size is 20 to 30 inches.

Habitat and Behavior

Their relatives are the cobra, mamba, and sea snake. They live in the wooded, marshy and sandy areas of the southeastern United States, and spend most of their lives in leaf piles or burrowed underground.

Diet

They eat lizards, frogs, and smaller snakes, including other coral snakes. Baby snakes emerge from their eggs 7 inches long and fully venomous. Adults reach about 2 feet in length. Average lifespan in the wild is unknown, but they can live up to seven years in captivity.

Venom / Bite

National Geographic reports that “there is little or no pain or swelling at the site of the bite, and other symptoms can be delayed for 12 hours. However, if untreated by antivenin, the neurotoxin begins to disrupt the connections between the brain and the muscles, causing slurred speech, double vision, and muscular paralysis, eventually ending in respiratory or cardiac failure”.

Unlike most other venomous snakes, the coral snake cannot contract its fangs into its mouth. Instead, the fangs are constantly out and erect and are relatively weak. Coral snakes’ small, fixed fangs and small mouth make it difficult for them to puncture human skin. A distinctive behavioral characteristic of a coral snake is how they deliver their venom which is through chewing motions. They have the second-strongest venom of any snake (the black mamba has the deadliest venom).

Old World and New World

Coral snakes are separated into two groups:

  • Old World coral snakes located in Asia and 
  • New World coral snakes which are located in the Americas.

Microfarts

Joseph F. Gemano, Jr. wrote an article in Reptiles Magazine about the Coral Snakes “microfarts”. Gemano wrote “when provoked, coral snakes will sometimes make a popping sound by expelling air from their cloaca, a single opening for the urinary, reproductive and intestinal tract, to startle the threat. These “microfarts” have been observed in other species, such as the Western hook-nosed snake. Scientists disagree about the behavior’s purpose. Some have speculated that it is a mating call, but Gemano said that in his research, the fart was always associated with an aggressive-defensive behavior”.

If you see any signs of snakes, call a professional pest control company sooner than later to handle it for you especially if it is a venomous one!  To learn more, read our blog 6 Venomous Snakes in Georgia.

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