Micrurus fulvius, 21 October 2017

Micrurus fulvius, the Harlequin coral snake;
Marion county, Florida (21 October 2017).

If you grew up in the United States, you’ve probably heard this old rhyme (or some variant of it) describing the venomous Coral snake: Red on yellow, kill a fellow; Red on black, friend of Jack. Well, handy as it may seem, that little rhyme and its variations aren’t necessarily 100% accurate when it comes to Coral snakes. Though it typically applies to most corals found in the United States, it simply doesn’t apply to all corals outside the United States. Further, some corals within the United States can be aberrant in their colors and entirely break that rhyming schema apart. All that being said, it certainly applied well enough to the two Harlequin coral snakes I found in Marion county, Florida, in October of 2017. Here’s a set of photographs of one of those two corals (also featured above):

Averaging upwards to twenty to thirty inches in length or so, the Harlequin coral snake, Micrurus fulvius, is a fairly secretive and elusive species. For all the concerns people have about their venom (and they are very venomous), this is simply not an aggressive or overtly “bitey” species. The individual featured above was particularly difficult to photograph because it simply would not stop trying to get to cover. That snake was determined to hide as soon as snakily-possible. At no point did it chase me or even move towards me. Its destination was singular and well-defined. In short, it wanted to go anywhere I wasn’t. Those are certainly some hastily composed photographs.

Still, corals are quite venomous and should not be handled or harassed. This is not a species you want to be reckless with, though I could say the same of all wild animals in one manner or another.

On this particular evening (it was approaching dusk), I actually came across two Harlequin corals in close proximity to each other. While the one featured above was rather hyper-active and eager to beat a retreat, the one below most certainly was not. The reason was simple: it had just been hit by a slow moving car. Sadly, the coral expired shortly before I found it. I took the opportunity, however, to (carefully) snag some closer shots of the Harlequin’s scalation. I could get lost in those colors…

Learn more about the Harlequin coral snake.

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