Since coral snakes are venomous and deadly, it is highly unlikely that you own one as a pet. However, you may still be curious about what these colorful snakes eat.
Fortunately, humans didn’t make the list, even though coral snakes are inclined to bite humans and subsequently inject their deadly venom into a person’s skin.
Therefore, it may not be surprising to learn that coral snakes are carnivorous, but you may shudder after discovering the types of prey that can be on their palette.
What Do Coral Snakes Eat?
Coral snakes are carnivorous, which means that they prey upon other animals. While coral snakes do feed on mice and insects, as most snakes do, they seem to prefer eating other reptiles, such as lizards and smaller snakes. They’ll even eat another coral snake! Coral snakes will also eat frogs and birds. While they’ll bite a person, they don’t prey upon humans.
Coral Snakes Eat Mice and Insects
Coral snakes usually reside in the Southeastern portion of the U.S. They either burrow themselves underneath the ground or hide under piles of leaves.
Their natural habitats include forests and marshes. These snakes are extremely poisonous, so if you encounter one, it is best to quickly head in the opposite direction!
That said, coral snakes do feed on mice and insects as other snakes are known to do, but they have needed to expand their palette as it is uncommon to see field mice residing in a swampy area.
However, coral snakes can easily locate a mouse in the deserts and grasslands, so mice are still a staple in their diet.
Insects are not a desired food for coral snakes, but when it is difficult for them to find preferable prey, these snakes will eat whatever is available.
Coral snakes do not feed year-round as cold weather inhibits their digestion of food. They primarily eat during their breeding season and when temperatures are higher.
Additionally, coral snakes hunt for food at night or shortly before dawn.
Their nocturnal nature further restricts their ideal feeding times, so when they are on the hunt for food, they often settle for whatever small prey they come across, even if all they can find is an insect.
Coral Snakes Feed on Reptiles
Since coral snakes reside in warmer climates, there is often an abundance of reptiles in their habitat. It may be easier, in some instances, for a coral snake to find a lizard than it is for them to find a mouse.
Therefore, lizards and geckos are a preferred food for coral snakes. They may even devour a small iguana.
Coral snakes usually wait patiently for the ideal time to attack a small animal, instead of stalking. When the timing is right, they will ambush their prey with a toxic and deadly bite that paralyzes their meal.
Coral snakes swallow their prey whole, and while their mouths can expand widely, they still feed on smaller prey that is easier to swallow and digest.
While lizards fit this criterion perfectly, coral snakes don’t restrict their palettes to lizards only. Smaller snakes are also easy for a coral snake to swallow due to similarities in bodily shape.
Coral snakes are ophiophagous, which basically means that they are cannibals.
Yes, a coral snake will indeed eat another coral snake. Freshly hatched baby corals will even eat their weaker siblings. These snakes do not discriminate when it comes down to their food source.
Coral Snakes Eat Frogs and Birds
Aside from lizards, frogs are an ideal food item for coral snakes. Frogs move slowly and will often stay still for a few moments, which gives a coral snake ample opportunity to pounce on this prey.
However, coral snakes aren’t inclined to live underwater, which makes frogs a scarcer food source for these snakes. Even so, coral snakes do have the propensity to live in moist environments, so if they come across a frog or toad, it’s dinnertime!
Birds are another common prey for coral snakes, but they usually feed on new hatchlings rather than adult birds.
While coral snakes may very well prey upon a bird, they are unable to digest feathers, which poses limitations to birds being used as a food source.
Coral Snakes Don’t Eat People or Pets
Well, unless you have a pet gerbil or something. Coral snakes don’t eat cats, dogs, or people, but they will bite one if they feel threatened.
Although you don’t need to worry much about a coral snake strangling and swallowing Fido, you do need to avoid these snakes as their venomous bites are deadly.
In order to stay away from these deadly creatures, you need to first identify coral snakes. If you remember this old rhyme, “Red on yellow, kill a fellow. Red on black, friend of Jack.”
Coral snakes are often mistaken for docile king snakes that have the same coloration, except for the fact that the red stripes touch the black stripes on a king snake, while the red touches the yellow on a coral snake.
If you happen to spot a snake with the red stripes touching the yellow stripes, you need to avoid it at all costs, as this snake will bite and its venom is deadly.
Frequently Asked Questions about What Coral Snakes Eat
Are Coral Snakes Aggressive?
Unlike rattlesnakes, coral snakes do not have an aggressive nature. If you see one, it will probably slither away from you. While you should never follow behind it, as its bites are venomous and deadly, this snake will only attack if it feels cornered or threatened.
If You’re Bitten by a Coral Snake, What Should You Expect?
The effects of a coral snake bite may be delayed for as long as thirteen hours, but you should still seek immediate medical attention. Once the effects kick in, they will quickly progress and include nausea, vomiting, and paralysis.
Well, the good news is that coral snakes do not eat people or pets and aren’t aggressive unless they are cornered.
Sure, you may have fewer lizards and mice in the neighborhood, but aside from that, as long as you leave a coral snake alone, the chances are good that it will leave you alone as well.
Coral snakes do have slimy feeding habits, given the fact that they feed on each other, but if you look on the bright side, their cannibalistic nature reduces the population of these deadly venomous snakes.