Hiking

Rarely seen coral snake on a hiking trail in Lost Maples

The Texas coral snake is a little more distinct than any other venomous snake in the state, as it is brightly colored with red, yellow, and black bands and can be seen several feet away.

So when a KSAT employee and his wife spotted one while hiking the West Loop Trail at Lost Maples State Park over the weekend, the message was clear: Back off.

After all, that’s where the popular saying, “red on black, Jack’s friend; red on yellow, kill a comrade”, comes from.

But what some Texans may not know is that the coral snake is actually rarely seen, Jessica Alderson, 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), wildlife enthusiasts responded and said they were surprised someone had spotted it.

A coral snake was seen at Lost Maples State Park. (KSAT)

Alderson said the coral snake is shy and docile, and snakes generally prefer to retreat or escape when encountered. Although they can become defensive if cornered or threatened, she added.

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“The majority of snakebites result from people taking unnecessary risks with snakes, such as trying to capture or kill a snake,” she said. “When left alone, snakes pose little or no danger to humans.

The coral snake is one of four types of venomous snakes in Texas, including the rattlesnake, cottonmouth, and copperhead.

Coral snake bites are rare, according to TPWD. Unlike pit vipers like the rattlesnake, cottonmouth, and copperhead, the coral snake belongs to the cobra family, so it has short, small fangs.

Coral snakes are slender with a small head and grow to around 2 and a half feet or less. They are typically found in the southeast half of Texas, according to TPWD.

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They are often confused with non-venomous snakes like the Texas scarlet snake and 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 mating in the spring, Alderson said.

TPWD has given the following tips to help people stay safe around snakes:

  • Keep the lawn around your house trimmed low.

  • Remove piles of brush, wood, rocks or debris from around your home. These make excellent hiding places for snakes and their prey.

  • Remove food sources that attract rodents, such as bird feeders and pet food.

  • Always wear shoes outside and never put your hands where you can’t see them.

  • Wear gloves when working in the garden and be careful when clearing debris, lifting rocks, pulling weeds or rooting around areas where snakes might be hiding.

Snakes are important to the ecosystem because they eat mice, rats, slugs, larvae, insects and other pests while also being 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.

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