- Common names: eastern coral snake, common coral snake, American cobra, more.
is a venomous elapid species
found only in the southeastern United States
. Not to be confused with its harmless mimics, the scarlet snake (Cemophora coccinea
) and the scarlet kingsnake (Lampropeltis triangulum elapsoides
). No subspecies are currently recognized.
Generally less than 80 cm in length, with maximum reported lengths of 121.8 cm for a specimen in Florida
(Niell, 1958) and 129.5 cm (Roze, 1996). Males have longer tails than females, but females reach a greater total length.
The dorsal scales are smooth in 15 rows. The ventral scales number 197-217 in males and 219-233 in females. There are 40-47 subcaudals in males and 30-37 in females. The anal plate is divided.
The color pattern consists of a series of rings that encircle the body: wide red and black rings separated by narrow yellow rings. The head is black from the rostral to just behind the eyes. The red rings are usually speckled with black.
Eastern coral snake, American cobra, candy stick, common coral snake, coral adder, Elaps harlequin snake, Florida coral snake, garter snake, harlequin coral snake, king snake, North American coral snake, red bead snake, thunder-and-lightning snake, candy-stick snake, eastern coralsnake, Florida coralsnake, harlequin coralsnake, serpiente-coralillo arlequín (Spanish
Southeastern United States
. Southeastern North Carolina
south through South Carolina
and peninsular Florida
, and westward through southern Georgia
to southeastern Louisiana
. May be found at altitudes of near sea level to approximately 400 m.
Occurs in upland mesophytic
and tropical hammocks in Florida
, as well as glade land, high pine, scrub oak and live oak hammock, slash pine and wiregrass flatwoods. In southern Georgia
it is found in dry areas with open ground that are bushy but not heavily vegetated. Associated with sandy ridges in Mississippi
and sandy creek bottoms in Louisiana
Small snakes and lizards.
It is reported that they lay 3-12 eggs in June that hatch in September. Neonates are 18-23 cm in length.
Only two documented fatalities were attributed to this species in the 1950s and none have been reported since Wyeth antivenin
became available for it in the 1960s. It does not account for many cases of snakebite in the US because of its secretive nature and general reluctance to bite (its venomous potential was still being debated in the 1880s). In addition, it is estimated that envenomation occurs in only 40% of all bites. Historically, however, the mortality rate was estimated to be about 10-20%, with death occurring in as little as 1-2 hours, or as much as 26 hours post bite. This is not that surprising, since the LD100
for humans is estimated to be 4-5 mg of dried venom, while the average venom yield is 2-6 mg with a maximum of more than 12 mg. This is probably why it is currently standard hospital procedure in the US to start with antivenin therapy for coral snake bites even if there are no symptoms yet (since there may not be any noticeable localized symptoms).