The Texas coral snake is a little more distinct than any other venomous snake in the state, as it’s brightly colored with red, yellow and black bands and can be seen from several feet away.
So when a KSAT employee and his wife spotted one while hiking on the West Loop Trail at Lost Maples State Park over the weekend, the message was clear: step back.
After all, that’s where the popular saying, “red on black, friend of Jack; red on yellow, kill a fellow,” comes from.
But what some Texans may not know is that the coral snake is actually rarely seen, Jessica Alderson, an urban biologist for Texas Parks and Wildlife, told KSAT.
After the employee posted images of the snake on social media (taken from a safe distance away), wildlife enthusiasts responded and said they were surprised that someone spotted it.
Alderson said the coral snake is shy and docile, and snakes typically prefer to retreat or escape when they’re encountered. Though they can become defensive if they are cornered or threatened, she added.
“The majority of snakes bites result from people taking unnecessary risks with snakes like trying to capture or kill a snake,” she said. “When left alone, snakes present little or no danger to people.
The coral snake is among the four types of venomous snakes in Texas, including the rattlesnake, cottonmouth and copperhead.
Bites from a coral snake are rare, according to TPWD. Unlike pit vipers like the rattlesnake, cottonmouth and copperhead, the coral snake is from the cobra family, therefore it has short and small fangs.
Coral snakes are slender with a small head and grow to about 2-and-a-half feet or shorter. They’re typically found in the Southeastern half of Texas, according to TPWD.
They often get mistaken for non-venomous snakes like the Texas scarlet snake, and the Louisiana and Mexican milk snakes, which have similar red, black, and yellow colors, Alderson said. The difference is the order of the colored bands.
But venomous or not, this is the time of year when snakes, in general, are most active, as they begin to mate in the spring, Alderson said.
TPWD gave the following tips to help people stay safe around snakes:
- Keep the lawn around your home trimmed low.
- Remove any brush, wood, rock or debris piles from around your home. These make great hiding places for snakes and their prey.
- Remove food sources that attract rodents, such as bird feeders and pet food.
- Always wear shoes while outside and never put your hands in places where you cannot see them.
- Wear gloves when working in the garden and be cautious as you clean up debris, lift rocks, pull weeds or root around areas that snakes could hide in.
Snakes are important to the ecosystem as they eat mice, rats, slugs, grubs, insects and other pests while they are also food for other wildlife, Alderson said.
“Snakes are valuable to our ecosystem; they serve as a natural form of pest control,” she added.
For more information on snakes, click here.