The Texas Coral Snake is a brightly colored diurnal snake (active during the day) which can be found throughout Harris County. However, their preferred habitat is rotting wood in densely forested areas, so a rotting board in your backyard would not be sufficient habitat for them. Although venomous snakes are not as commonly seen in our area as most people are led to believe, this is one that could be encountered due to their daytime activity patterns.
First the bad news: Texas Coral Snakes are in a family of snakes called Elapidae, which includes potentially deadly snakes (cobras, mambas, taipans, etc.) found in other parts of the world. Their venom is neurotoxic, which means it attacks the nervous system. Neurotoxic venom in sufficient quantities can cause dizziness, numbness, slurred speech, loss of muscle control, paralysis and even respiratory and heart failure.
Now the good news: Generally speaking, the Texas Coral Snake averages 2 to 2 1/2 feet in length as an adult and has a very small head and very small mouth. They also do not have the highly sophisticated venom delivery system of the pit vipers, and have fangs that are no more than 1/8 inch long. This means that a coral snake would have to chew on a victim, and I don't know of too many people that will let ANY kind of snake chew on them for long, let alone a coral snake!!
Texas Coral Snakes can be easily identified by the particular order of the bright red, black and yellow bands encircling the body. Wherever there is a red band on a Texas Coral Snake, there will be yellow bands on each side of it. In contrast, the harmless Louisiana Milksnake, Lampropeltis triangulum amaura, has red bands that are bordered by black bands. Hence the rhyme:
Red touch yellow can kill a fellow; Red touch black, venom lack.
The Texas Coral Snake also has black speckling in the red bands, whereas the milksnake does not. Keep in mind that the Texas Coral Snake is generally diurnal and the Louisiana Milksnake is generally nocturnal, so you are more likely to see a coral snake than a milksnake during the day. Also, PLEASE remember that the guidelines that I am posting are for the Harris County area ONLY.....there are coral snakes in Central America that have red bands bordered by black bands, just like the milksnake!!