One of my co-workers called Sunday afternoon. "I've got a pretty snake," he said. "Do you want me to bring it to work tomorrow?" "Sure," I said. "Will it stay in a shoebox or will it get out?'' "It will escape," I told him. "Put it in a pillowcase." "A PILLOWCASE," he shreaked. It should be noted, I was in a bit of a hurry since he called during the Cowboys-Patriots game and Dallas happened to be winning at the time (we all know how long the lead lasted!). I said a hurried "good-bye" and was sure that was the end of it. I couldn't imagine his wife letting him put a snake in one of her pillow cases. So I was pleasantly surprised when he walked into the office Monday morning holding a yellow pillowcase, tied perfectly at the neck. I even joked he was now a professional snake hunter.
What I found inside was a pretty snake, alright! It was a Texas Coral Snake, which just so happens to possess the most dangerous venom of any venomous snake in Texas. Texas Coral Snakes belong to the Elapidae Family which includes the mambas, cobras, taipans and sea snakes and they possess a highly toxic venom that attacks the nervous system. Granted, very few people are ever bitten by a coral snake since encounters are rare and they have a very small head and mouth. That combination makes bites to humans almost impossible. It's a myth, however, that the coral snake has to "chew" it's victim to inflict a venomous bite. I witnessed this first hand when trying to photograph this particular snake. It bit the black poster board I originally thought of using as a back ground. One bite left a sizable amount of venom and made the entire process of photographing this thing VERY NERVE-RACKING!
If you're ever lucky enough to see one of these beauties in the wild but aren't quite sure if it's indeed a coral snake, just remember this simple rhyme:
Red and yellow
Kill a fellow.
Red and black
Friend of Jack (or venom lack).
That pertains to the banding, of course. As you can see in the photo, the red bands touch the yellow bands. The milk snake, which is so often mistaken for a coral snake, has red and black bands touching. Instead of trying to determine which snake it actually is, it's probably a better idea to just let the snake pass and go it's way. Now that I think about it, I wonder how my co-worker even caught this thing. Hmm, if he only knew!