Coral Snake Versus King Snake

Coral Snake Versus King Snake: A Comprehensive Guide

When it comes to snakes, there are many different varieties with unique characteristics. Two of the most recognizable species are the coral snake and king snake. While these snakes may look similar at first glance, there are distinct features that set them apart. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the differences between coral snakes and king snakes, including their physical appearance, habitats, behaviors, and potential danger to humans.

Physical Appearance

The coral snake is known for its distinctive coloration – red, yellow, and black stripes – which is often compared to the warning colors of a stoplight. They can grow up to 3 feet long and have thin bodies with small heads. Coral snakes are venomous, with their venom used to immobilize prey.

On the other hand, king snakes are often mistaken for coral snakes due to their similar coloration. However, king snakes have a different pattern, with bands of black, yellow, and white. They have wider bodies and triangular heads, making them look more intimidating than coral snakes. Unlike coral snakes, king snakes are non-venomous and rely on constriction to kill their prey.

Habitat and Range

Coral snakes are found primarily in the southeastern United States and parts of Mexico, often in wooded or swampy areas. They are sometimes called “eastern coral snakes” to distinguish them from other species in the same family. Coral snakes are not typically aggressive and will only bite if provoked or threatened. Their venom is potent, causing paralysis and respiratory failure, which can be fatal in some cases.

King snakes, on the other hand, are found throughout North and South America and can adapt to many different environments. They can be found in forests, deserts, grasslands, and even suburban areas. King snakes are opportunistic hunters and eat a variety of prey, such as rodents, lizards, and other snakes. They are often considered beneficial to have around as they help control pest populations.


Coral snakes are generally shy and nocturnal, preferring to stay hidden during the day. They are slow-moving and use their bright colors as a warning to potential predators. Coral snakes primarily hunt other snakes, lizards, and frogs. When threatened, they will curl up and hide their head, exposing their colorful tail as a warning.

King snakes, on the other hand, are diurnal and will often bask in the sun to regulate their body temperature. They are active hunters and will search for prey both on the ground and in trees. King snakes are often opportunistic, taking advantage of any food source they come across. When threatened, they will hiss and shake their tail, mimicking the sound of a rattlesnake to scare away predators.

Potential Danger to Humans

While both coral snakes and king snakes can be intimidating to encounter in the wild, only coral snakes are venomous and pose a danger to humans. Coral snake bites are rare but can be extremely dangerous if left untreated. Symptoms can include muscle weakness, respiratory failure, and even death. It’s important to seek medical attention immediately if you are bitten by a coral snake.

King snake bites, on the other hand, are not dangerous to humans. They may cause some pain and swelling but are not venomous. However, king snakes can be aggressive if provoked, so it’s important to give them space and avoid handling them if possible.


While coral snakes and king snakes may look similar at first glance, there are distinct differences between the two species. Coral snakes are venomous and have distinct red, yellow, and black stripes, while king snakes are non-venomous and have black, yellow, and white bands. Coral snakes are primarily found in the southeastern United States, while king snakes can be found throughout North and South America. Both species have unique behaviors and adaptations that make them fascinating to study. Whether you’re a snake enthusiast or just curious about these amazing creatures, understanding the differences between coral snakes and king snakes is a great place to start.