Coral snakes are a highly venomous snake that homeowners in some states are likely to encounter. Here's what you need to know about these dangerous creatures.
What do coral snakes look like?
These snakes are small: they are usually between 20 and 30 inches long. Coral snakes are easy to identify thanks to their bright coloration. Coral snakes have red, yellow, and black bands along the length of their bodies.
Other snakes have similar color patterns, but you can identify a coral snake by the placement of the colored bands. If the snake in front of you has red bands beside yellow bands, you're looking at a coral snake. If the red bands are beside black bands, instead, you're looking at a harmless impostor.
Where are they found?
Coral snakes are found throughout the state of Florida, and are common there, but you can also find them in other states. They can be found as far north as North Carolina and as far west as Louisiana. Within these states, they prefer to live in pine and scrub habitats but will also live in hardwood habitats. Homeowners in rural areas are likely to encounter these snakes, but they can be found in the suburbs as well.
These snakes are shy and secretive, and like to stay underground or underneath objects like rocks and logs. You may disturb a coral snake while you're digging in your garden or while clearing debris from your yard. Sometimes they venture out into the open, so you may see one slithering across your yard, usually during the spring or fall.
What happens if you get bitten?
If you get bitten, you will probably feel fine at first, and may even think that you weren't envenomated. Symptoms can take as many as 18 hours to develop, but once they develop, you'll have no doubt that you were envenomated. Typical symptoms include muscle weakness and paralysis, which can lead to difficulty breathing. Some people go into respiratory arrest and need to be put on a ventilator, sometimes for weeks after the bite.
There is currently an effective antivenom available, but it is no longer being manufactured. Once the current stocks are depleted, there will no longer be a treatment for coral snake bites. Without antivenom treatment, about 10-20% of people who are bitten by a coral snake die.
Coral snakes are very dangerous. When you're doing gardening or yard work, watch out for coral snakes, and if you see one, keep your distance. If you encounter a coral snake, consider having it removed by a pest control company, such as Heritage Pest Control.