Today’s Interesting Happening

You might not think this is so interesting but I thought it was so I’m sharing.

While out walking my dog this morning I came across a dead snake lying on the road.  The colours were red and black, and try as I might, I couldn’t find the yellow band on it at all, so I wasn’t sure if it was a coral snake.  Turns out, after chatting with a couple of snake experts in Belize, it is a coral snake, though the exact family isn’t clear.   This is a first for me – my first coral snake.  Here’s what I saw, the picture on the left.  So I think you can excuse the confusion as to why I couldn’t quite figure it out.

So, a bit about coral snakes – one of the deadliest snakes around, second only to the black mamba.  Their poison is very toxic but apparently their delivery systems lack teeth rendering them less dangerous than a rattlesnake.  Coral snakes are very thin; growing up to 3 feet long and have rounded heads.  The reason for their lack of danger, even though they have a very toxic poison, is their fangs.  Their fangs are in a fixed position in their mouths and are small and inefficient for venom delivery.  So rather than biting and letting go the coral snake holds onto its pretty and makes chewing motions.  It takes time for the poison to take full effect but when it does the requirement to get emergency treatment is within hours.  Fortunately, from what I’ve read, coral snakes would rather not take on a human, and as I don’t make it a habit to put my hand into leaf litter my chances of coming across an angry coral snake are pretty much nil.

However, they are very colourful snakes.  You will often hear people quote a small verse to help determine if it is a king or a coral snake – red and yellow kills a fellow, red and black friend of jack.  I don’t think I’m going to commit this to memory because apparently coral snakes can come in colours other than red, yellow and black.  Here’s one with a white band instead of yellow.   And below is a blue one (not found in the western hemisphere though.  And then you have the multi-coloured, multi-patterned Malaysian coral snake.

At the end of the day, when I see any snake, my first reaction is to back away, not to reach for it and just let it be.  They serve a purpose, and in the case of coral snakes, the purpose is to feed on smaller snakes, small rodents (a.k.a. mice and rats), frogs, and nestling birds.  I say leave them be – go after the mice and rats.  With so much greenery nearby I’m sure their absence would be noted in the form of increased rodents.


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