4 Snakes That Look Like Coral Snakes (With Pictures)

Luckily, for those of us living in the United States, we don’t have as many snakes with deadly bites as other parts of the world. But we still have some, like the coral snake and the copper head, which can be quite deadly, and we have plenty of snakes that look like they are deadly and can scare off predators without needing to use their bite.

Knowing the difference between venomous snakes like coral snakes and harmless snakes that look very similar can save lives. If you live in any of the southern states across America, you probably know the dangers of coral snakes. We’re going to list a few snakes that look just like that and inhabit the same area, which could cause you to mistake them for the real thing. For each, we’ll show you what they look like, provide a brief summary of their behavior, and tell how you can tell them apart from the toxic variety so you can stay safe.

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Identifying Coral Snakes

coral snake

One of the first things you may notice about the deadly coral snake is that its nose is black and has matching black bands on its body. There will also be a red band on the body, and a yellow stripe will separate the red and black. While you don’t want to get close enough to look at it, you will see the protruding fangs that are missing from non-venomous snakes if the snake opens its mouth.

Mnemonic Technique

Some southerners have come up with clever rhymes to help you tell the difference between a venomous coral snake and its lookalike.

“Red that touches yellow will kill people, but red that touches black is safe for Jack.”

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Snakes That Look Like Coral Snakes

1. Red King Snake

red king snake

The red king snake is easily mistaken for a coral snake as it has red, black, and yellow stripes that we should avoid. However, if you take a close look at this snake and remember our rhyme, you will notice that the red band touches the black band, which is “safe for Jack.” Poisonous corals will have a yellow stripe separating the red and black. There are some other differences as well. Its nose is red instead of black, and it has no fangs. It is slightly darker in color than the coral snake, and there are traces of white alongside the red and black. This snake likes to live in rotting trees and is usually quite shy.

2. Florida Scarlet Snake

florida red snake

The Florida red snake is similar to the red king snake and has a nearly identical pattern. Reds are usually brighter, and yellows are often muted and may appear white. It will have a red nose and no fangs. The Florida Scarlet Snake’s underside is also white in color, unlike the poisonous coral which has bands wrapped around its entire body. One thing they have in common with corals is that they like to hide underground.

3. Sonora’s Shovel Nose Snake

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Sonora’s shovel-nosed snake is one of the most difficult to decipher as it contradicts the rhymes we share, and red hits yellow if the snake denotes that color instead of white. The best way to tell this snake from a coral is to look at its nose. It will be white or yellow on Sonora’s shovel-nosed snake, not black.

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4. Red Rat Snake

red rat snake

The last type of snake that is very similar to the coral snake is the red rat snake. This species is a non-venomous corn snake type that you can find throughout the United States. This snake is often mistaken for a coral snake because of its red and yellow bands, but you can tell because it doesn’t have a black band.

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Where Are Coral Snakes Hiding?

Coral snakes are a shy breed who will try to avoid you if they see you coming and prefer you to leave them alone. Unfortunately, these snakes tend to hide in places that take us by surprise, such as piles of wood or among rocks we might climb on a hike. They are in tall grass and like to live near tree lines where there are plenty of food options.

Can I Take a Non-Toxic Snake?

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If you correctly identify the snake as non-venomous, you won’t be harmed by picking it up. However, we recommend leaving the snake alone as you can disturb the snake’s habitat, and handling it can disturb it. It’s all too easy to misidentify a snake, and that’s not a mistake you want to make. The information here is to help you identify snakes on your property from a distance, not to help you select snakes to pick up. Always exercise caution when near any snake and never come within striking range without someone nearby who can call for help. If you need to move a non-venomous snake, wear gloves and handle it gently. Place it in a suitable container until you can release it in a suitable location.

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Knowing the difference between a reef snake and its lookalike can help you quickly assess any danger you may be in if you see a snake during your daily activities. We recommend driving clearly and giving all snakes plenty of room regardless of danger. Snakes are very good for the environment and harmless. If they bite you, they are just trying to protect themselves. It’s all too easy to mis-identify a race because you only get to see it briefly, and the colors may be lighter or darker than you’d expect. One mistake could cost you your life, or at least a trip to the hospital.

We hope you enjoyed our look at these copycat snakes and have learned how to tell the difference. If we’ve helped you stay safer, please share this guide with four snakes that look like coral snakes on Facebook and Twitter.

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Featured Image Credit: Patrick K. Campbell, Shutterstock