Eastern Coral Snake

One of the only two elapids in North America the Eastern coral snake is a highly colorful species, with red, black and yellow or white bands ringing its body. The bright markings on the bodies of these highly poisonous snakes may serve as a warning to potential predators. This snake is venomous, and its appearance has been mimicked by harmless species such as the scarlet kingsnake in an effort to deter predators.

Despite their bright colouration, these snakes are shy and rarely seen. They are not especially aggressive, but their venom can be sufficiently potent to kill a person within an hour or two, so rapid hospital treatment is essential if bitten. If the snake is threatened, it raises its tail to disguise which end of the body is its head. This gives it an opportunity to strike and escape. The Eastern coral snake is a secretive species, spending much of the time buried in leaf litter or sand. In the morning and late afternoon, it prowls on the surface in search of small lizards and snakes, which it kills with its highly toxic venom.

Distribution: Occurs in southeastern parts of the USA, ranging from southeastern N. Carolina via S. Carolina to Florida, and west through Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

Weight: Up to 34 g (1.2 oz).

Length: Typically 80 cm (32 in), but can reach nearly 130 cm (51 in).

Maturity: 2 years.

Breeding: 3 - 12, laid underground or often in hollow logs in summer.

Incubation Period: About 3 months, depending on environmental temperature; young are dangerous virtually from hatching.

Food: Hunts other reptiles, mainly small snakes and lizards

Lifespan: Up to 7 years.


Boldly marked with red and black bands separated by narrow yellow rings.


This is longer in males, but overall, females are larger.


Black on the head extends back behind the eyes.


These are round and black. These snakes are active during the day.


Other, non-venomous, snakes have developed bright colouration. There is a well-established saying, "red touch yellow, kill a fellow", to help distinguish the eastern coral snake.

These snakes have a very wide gape, which allows them to sink their long fangs into their prey to inject venom.

Gallery of Eastern Coral Snake