Coral Snakes vs King Snakes

Given how incredibly similar they are to one another, coral snakes and kingsnakes are sometimes mistaken for one another.

They both have vivid colors, similar patterns, and even frequent some of the same environments. Is it feasible to distinguish them from one another given how similar they are? Yes, there are quite a few significant distinctions between them, and the answer is yes.

One is lethal, the other is mostly benign, and one is far larger than the other. Even their methods of killing their prey differ, and one of them is a predator of the other. But there is much more to learn about these amazing snakes, so come along as we explore all of their unique characteristics and learn how to identify the deadly ones.

What is a King Snake?

King snakes are a group of snakes that belong to the Lampropeltis genus in the Colubridae family. Although there are milk snakes and other snakes in this genus, there are only roughly 10 species of king snakes, with more than 25 subspecies.

King snakes are not poisonous, yet they can feed on venomous snakes as well as anybody else in their way. It is amazing how well they survive the deadly toxic rattlesnakes’ venom. They are known as “king snakes” because of their astonishing capacity to overcome all odds by acquiring immunity to snake venom.

Most king snakes have bands of red, yellow, white, and black scales. King snakes are enormous and have the unique ability to constrict its victim after they have caught it in order to render it helpless.

However, despite having thin scales and skin that is pierceable by other people’s bites, they are resistant to venom and illnesses. In certain regions, they have been kept as pets, however they may be docile when threatened by rodent attacks.

However, if a king snake did not escape, keeping one in your lawn might not be a terrible idea given their exceptional capacity to combat poisonous snakes.

What is a Coral Snake?

The poisonous Family Elapidae includes coral snakes, which have been classified into four genera: Leptomicrurus, Micruroides, Micrurus, and Calliophis.

Their geographic distribution pattern clearly reveals that they may be divided into the old world and the new world. The Calliophis genus contains 11 different species of old world coral snakes. With 65 species listed under the three other genera, the new world coral snakes are more diverse.

The color pattern of coral snakes is one of its distinguishing features. They generally wear bands or rings in the colors black, red, white, and yellow. The yellow and red bands on coral snakes that are native to the US contact each other.

Since coral snakes are poisonous and may kill anybody in their path, non-venomous snakes like milk snakes and king snakes have begun to emulate coral snake behavior.

It’s crucial to note that certain snakes with high venom levels have unique banding patterns, and occasionally they have no colored bands at all.

The behaviors of coral snakes vary, and so do their environments; some coral snakes prefer to dwell in aquatic areas, while others are fossorial. It’s noteworthy to note that some are mostly found in the forest floor’s leaf litter. Coral snakes don’t strike out much, but when they do, they grip their prey while biting the victim.

The most common prey items for coral snakes are tiny reptiles including snakes, frogs, birds, and small rodents.

Comparing King Snake vs Coral Snake

Coral snakes and kingsnakes both have stunning appearances and vibrant colors. However, they are often confused for one another due to their different banded look. The Greek name Lampropeltis, which means “bright shields,” is the genus that includes kingsnakes. Currently, there are about 45 subspecies and 9 recognized species of kingsnake.

Old World and New World coral snakes are two distinct groups that can be found in various locations. Asia is home to the Old World coral snake, whereas the Americas is home to the New World coral snake. More than 65 species of coral snakes are found in the New World, compared to 16 species in the Old World.

Although there are considerable variances between the many species of king snakes and coral snakes, there are still some crucial distinctions between the two groups. For more information on a handful of the key distinctions, see the figure below.

Are Coral Snakes Aggressive?

Don’t dismiss a poisonous coral snake if you find one in your yard. The snake must be taken out to ensure that nobody gets hurt.

Given that coral snakes are extremely dangerous, it is advisable to have the snake professionally removed by calling animal control, the local police, or in some cases even the fire department.

Herpetologist Tim Cole, who runs the Austin Reptile Service and does educational talks on different kinds of snakes, claims that coral snakes aren’t dangerous since they won’t attack you in the wild as rattlesnakes will.

They are apprehensive snakes that will attempt to escape from you. Less than 1% of all snake attacks in the United States are caused by coral snakes, which, like kingsnakes, are neither aggressive or prone to bite unless provoked.

Why Do They Look So Similar?

The coral snake’s appearance serves as an illustration of aposematic colouring. Numerous species of animals employ vivid colors to alert potential predators that they won’t make a tasty meal.

Red, black, yellow, and white are the most typical hues for this. These colors are often used by animals to show that they are poisonous or otherwise harmful. This coloring is common among toxic frogs, and even animals like skunks and honey badgers employ it to ward off predators.

The coral snake inhabits a large portion of the same habitat as scarlet kingsnakes and the similarly colored scarlet snake. These snakes have comparable colour on both of them.

They are therefore an illustration of Batesian mimicry. Butterflies and other insects are widely recognized for using batesian mimicry. It occurs when a less risky species imitates a more deadly one in order to fend off predators.

In regions where coral snakes are prevalent, many predators instinctively avoid snakes with red and yellow bands. There is significant disagreement about whether kingsnakes benefit from this mimicry given that they have a greater range than coral snakes.

This essay explores the subject and makes some intriguing observations on how it has changed throughout snake evolution.

How To Identify Coral Snakes From King Snakes

The coral snake is among the most poisonous snakes that are endemic to the Southeast of the United States. It is easy to recognize this snake because to its distinctive red, black, and yellow stripes. Although kingsnakes are not dangerous, they share the same color bands, making it challenging to distinguish between the two snakes.

Similar red, black, yellow, or white banding may be found on scarlet kingsnakes and scarlet snakes, just like coral snakes. The simplest way to differentiate a kingsnake from a coral snake is to look at its colors. Coral snakes have bands of yellow and red that touch, but kingsnakes have patterns of red and black with rings of yellow and black.

The yellow and red bands of kingsnakes are always divided by black bars. Knowing whether you are dealing with a poisonous snake or a nonvenomous snake is clearly crucial.

In North America, there is a straightforward proverb that states: “Red and black, buddy of Jack; red on yellow, murder a fellow.” When the red and black colorings overlap, a kingsnake is present and is not poisonous.

The snake is a coral snake and is deadly if the phrase “red and yellow, kill a man” pops into your head when you see red and yellow colors touching.

It’s best to avoid getting too near to a snake unless you are confident of its identity. If a coral snake bites you, you can end up needing to stay in the hospital for many days. Like the non-venomous Mexican black kingsnake, a subspecies of the common kingsnake, kingsnakes have long, rounded snouts.

The Mexican black kingsnake has a small, oval-shaped head that is about the same size as the neck, and a long, smooth, slender body. The California mountain kingsnake has a black and yellow snout, while the scarlet kingsnake has a red nose.

Black snouts that are blunt, rounded, and truncated are characteristics of coral snakes. Elapidae snakes, which also include cobras or even mambas and coral snakes, are poisonous.

If the victim does not seek medical attention, the neurotoxic venom from a coral snake bite will kill them. The victim will experience speech slurring, double vision, muscle paralysis, respiratory and cardiac failure, and death.

Fortunately, coral snakes seldom bite people; since the 1960s, no fatalities from eastern coral snakes have been reported in the US.

Non-venomous snakes called kingsnakes are frequently kept as house pets. Both coral snakes and kingsnakes spend the most of their waking hours underground, hiding out in cracks and crevices as well as under logs and leaves. While kingsnakes are expert climbers, coral snakes seldom scale plants or trees.

In an effort to deceive potential assailants, coral snakes also engage in peculiar defensive behavior, swinging and moving their tails to mimic the movements of their heads. The protective behavior of kingsnakes is not like that.

Similarities Between Coral and Kingsnakes

It might be challenging to distinguish the two snakes in the locations where they are present. Their eating and lifestyles are similar. For instance, both snakes consume other snakes as well as reptiles, amphibians, and bird eggs.

They both spend the daytime hidden behind logs or leaf litter.

They might be discovered in caves or beneath rocks. Both snakes are timid, thus they usually stay away from people. They also have red, black, and yellow bands of color in the Southeastern United States. The two snakes are commonly mistaken as a result.

The Key Differences Between Coral Snakes and King Snakes

Coral snakes and kingsnakes differ significantly in a number of ways. First of all, coral snakes employ venom to seek their prey whereas kingsnakes are bigger and poisonous.

Even coral snakes are prey for king snakes. Additionally, coral snakes have red and yellow bands that contact one another, whereas king snakes have red and black bands that touch one another. Let’s examine the main variations between these two snakes.

Although kingsnakes and coral snakes frequently resemble one another in appearance, there are still several key distinctions between the two. Kingsnakes are frequently red, black, and yellow in color and have smooth, shining scales. Normally, the black and red bands are constantly in contact.

Coral snakes typically have black, red, and yellow bands and are vividly colored. The red and yellow bands often overlap each other all the time.

Coral snakes have black heads that extend past their eyes and have short, flat snouts. To assist people remember the difference between coral snakes and king snakes, there is a proverb that goes, “Red on yellow kills a buddy, red on black a friend of Jack.”

One of the most significant and significant distinctions between kingsnakes and coral snakes is their venom. The second-strongest venom of any snake is found in coral snakes, which are extremely poisonous.

Their venom includes incredibly potent neurotoxins that damage the brain’s capacity to regulate muscles, and they have small, permanently erect fangs. Vomiting, paralysis, slurred speech, jerking muscles, and even death are among the symptoms.

However, kingsnakes are not hazardous to people since they lack fangs and are not poisonous. Even a bite from one of their tiny, conical teeth wouldn’t be dangerous.

Size – King snakes and coral snakes have a significant size difference. Kingsnakes typically measure between 24 and 72 inches (6 feet) in length, making them much longer than coral snakes. Coral snakes typically measure between 18 and 20 inches in length, which is much smaller than average.

However, New World coral snakes may grow up to three feet in length, making them bigger than Old World coral snakes.

There are two distinct populations of coral snakes, known as Old World (found in Asia) and New World (live in the Americas).

The majority of coral snakes prefer woodland or forested regions where they may dig burrows or hide behind clumps of leaves. Some coral snakes do, however, reside in arid environments and frequently dig into the sand or ground.

Kingsnakes may be found throughout Mexico and all of North America. They can survive in a range of settings, including grassland, shrubland, river valleys, rocky slopes, woodlands, and desert areas, and are quite adaptable.

How Dangerous Are Coral Snakes?

One of the most poisonous snakes in the world is the coral snake. The bite of an Eastern coral snake can result in cardiac arrest and muscle paralysis if untreated. In humans, symptoms can be postponed, but if left untreated, it will be dangerous.

However, only 2% of all snake bites are from coral snakes.

This is partially a result of their timid nature. Additionally, coral snakes have poor venom delivery systems and fixed fangs. To inject venom, they must eat through a human’s skin.

As a result, many humans who are bitten may knock the snake off before they are bitten. Despite the fact that symptoms might take up to 13 hours to manifest, you should still seek treatment.

If you have been envenomated, you won’t feel any severe pain or swelling. Muscle weakness, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, nausea, and vomiting are among the symptoms.

Although there haven’t been any documented fatalities since the invention of antivenin, it is still conceivable. If you or a pet has been bitten, get assistance right away.