These are some Coral Snakes (Micrurus fulvius) that I've encountered around our houses. These very poisonous snakes are generally overlooked unless you happen to be doing some gardening or one gets in a shoe you've left outside. Don't leave shoes outside! They are shy and mostly will run from you if you give them a chance.
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Coral snakes are often confused with Kingsnakes or Scarlet snakes which are
both harmless. Red on yellow with a black head. . .beware.
Looking at him closer one sees his head is black. Forget all
the rhymes you learned about Florida snakes as a child. A black head
on a colorful snake means danger and venomous.
"Red touches yellow, kills a fellow. . ."
= Coral Snake
"Red touches black. . . friend of Jack . . . "
= Kingsnake or Scarlet Snake
The Coral Snake is a relative of Old World cobras and is extremely
dangerous. However, the snake is shy and will retreat unless threatened.
Most bites occur when someone picks one up (with an ungloved hand)
or puts a bare foot into a shoe where the snake has taken refuge.
I always wear boots and gloves when gardening and remove them to get these shots with my hand or fingers for scale.
Coral snakes possess one of the most potent venoms of any North American snake.
The snakes have short fangs that cannot penetrate thick clothing, however
any skin penetration is a medical emergency that requires immediate
attention. Their venom contains a powerful neurotoxin that paralyzes the
breathing muscles. Normally that venom is reserved for other snakes,
lizards, frogs, nestling birds, and rodents.
While the Coral Snake inhabits a variety or ecosystems in Florida these
are living in dry, well-drained flatwoods and scrub, perhaps the most
dangerous of Florida ecosystems, because there are so many venomous species
Above and Below, photos with my shoe in the frame for some reference to the size of the snake. The one in the stone work of the house is much larger. He has been around a very long time. I don't bother him, he doesn't bother me. I might see him once or twice a year.
The average adult is 20-30 inches (51-76 cm). The record
length is 47.5 inches (121 cm). This one was small. . .maybe 18 inches (46 cm).
The central peninsula of Florida is the area where one is most
likely to be bitten by a Coral Snake. On average 47
bites are reported every year.
Note too that there is no longer an effective anti-venom produced for
envenomation by Micrurus fulvius. While it is a long and often boring
story of corporate greed and government incompetence. . . the short
story is that Wyeth Pharmaceuticals now owned by Pfizer, Inc. quit making
the anti-venom in 2003 due to costs . . .and the government has found no
company that will make the product in the years since.
The FDA has extended the expiration date of North American Coral
Snake Antivenin® (spelling by manufacturer) that expired in 2008. . . but all of that antivenin expired years ago.
The Florida Poison Control Center recommends that no one touch
or try to capture or kill any Coral Snake that may have bitten them because
such activity might result in more bites. Rather one should call 911 or get to an
emergency room as soon as possible. They also recommend taking a
photo of the snake if possible, calling poison control at 1 (800) 222-1222,
and resting the envenomated limb lower than the heart while washing
the bite with soap and water to remove venom on skin surfaces.
It is also a good idea to remove all jewelry and constrictive clothing
as swelling is a guaranteed side effect of a bite.