The trouble with snakes: San Benito resident finds poisonous creature in backyard

SAN BENITO — Nobody wakes up and thinks this is the day they’ll need to remember — what was that phrase? — “red and yellow kill a fellow.”

Domingo Santana proved the exception when he cornered and captured a 14-inch coral snake in his yard on Russell Lane in San Benito, seeing first-hand the vivid black-yellow-red colors of a Texas coral snake.

The catchphrase about red and yellow is a saying passed down through the years to distinguish the poisonous coral snake from the non-poisonous kingsnakes and milk snakes which can look almost identical.

“It was on my porch in the backyard” at about 1 a.m. yesterday. “I was going to step out, and I saw something wiggling, I said what in the world?

“We have had water snakes before, and I thought it was a water snake, and then I noticed the coloring and said, wow, that’s not a water snake.”

The brilliantly colored — and highly venomous — snake is a rare sight for people. Coral snakes are very reclusive and tend to avoid confrontations, even going so far as playing dead when cornered. Nevertheless, coral snake venom is among the most toxic of any snake in the world.

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Identifying the danger

Milk snake – Non-POISONOUS

Typical color pattern is alternating bands of red-black-yellow or white-black-red rings always bordered by the yellow rings.

Coral snake – POISONOUS

Slender with small, indistinct head. Usually under 2.5 feet long. Distinctive pattern is a broad black ring, a narrow yellow ring and a broad red ring, with the red rings always bordered by the yellow rings.

Kingsnake – Non-POISONOUS

Scarlet kingsnake, Mexican milk snake and red milk snake have coloration and patterning that can cause them to be confused with coral snakes. But their yellow color bands never touch red.

  • Keep the lawn around your home trimmed low.
  • Remove any brush, wood, rock or debris piles from around the residence.
  • Always wear shoes when outside and never put your hands where you cannot see them.
  • Be careful when stepping over fallen logs and rock outcroppings.
  • Take care along creek banks and underbrush.

Source: Texas Parks and Wildlife