How To Tell A Coral Snake From A Corn Snake

Are you trying to identify the type of snake you just saw?

Are you worried you might have a coral snake living around your home?

Do you worry you have a coral snake instead of a corn snake in your possession?

Corn snakes are brightly colored and safe to have as pets, while their cousin, the coral snake, is a highly poisonous animal.

With this information you might be wondering:

How can I tell a coral snake from a corn snake?

The easiest way to distinguish a coral snake and a corn snake is to look at the color and pattern of the two reptiles. While both are brightly colored, coral snakes will have red bands of color bordered by yellow bands on both sides. Corn snakes will have saddle markings which look like blotches of color with darker outlines on their backs with a white or light colored underside.

Other characteristics differ between the two snakes.

For more details on how to tell the differences between the two types of snakes, continue reading.

how to tell a coral snake from a corn snake

How To Tell A Coral Snake From A Corn Snake

If you are worried you have spotted a coral snake, but you aren’t sure if it was just a corn snake, there are a few good ways to tell the difference.

The easiest way to tell the two snake apart is the distinctive coloring patterns of the coral snake.

Both of these snakes are brightly colored, but a coral snake will have red bands flanked by yellow bands all along their body.

This coloration gave way to a popular rhyme to help anyone who might come across these snakes.

“Red touch black, safe for Jack.

Red touch yellow kills a fellow.”

While there are different variations of this old rhyme, the general gist remains the same.

You will easily identify a coral snake with those touching red and yellow bands circling the body, rather than breaking at the underside.`

Corn snakes are found in a variety of colors, but primarily a combination of red and orange, orange and yellow, and black.

While they sometimes might have similar colorings as coral snakes, their saddle markings differ from corn snakes.

These saddle markings look like blotches on their backs rather than the rings you will find on coral snakes.

These blotches are named this because they look similar to a saddle on the animal.

Other Differences Between Coral Snakes And Corn Snakes

Besides the distinctive coloring between the two snakes, the coral snake will make popping noises called microfarts when they are threatened.

The animal is expelling air through its cloaca to make these popping noises.

This attribute has been seen in only a few other varieties of snakes.

Another way to differentiate a coral snake from a corn snake is by its head.

On a coral snake, the head is blunt and black from tip to back behind its eyes, and a corn snake’s head is more angular.

Characteristics Of A Coral Snake

Coral snakes are one of the most deadly snakes on the planet, falling just behind the black mamba for the most potent venom.

Coral snakes are grouped into two groups including New World coral snakes and Old World coral snakes,

Old world coral snakes are found in Asia, while the New World coral snakes are found in North America.

In North America, these snakes are often found in marshy and wooded areas in the southeast, but the Western coral snake resides in the deserts of Arizona.

Their venom contains a potent neurotoxin, but because of their small mouth and delicate fangs are fixed in place, it is difficult for them to puncture the skin of a human, which is why there have been no deaths from this snake’s bite reported since the 1960s.

Coral snakes are very slender, some as thin as a pencil.

They typically grow between 18″ inches and 20″ inches long, but some have been reported to be as long as 3′ feet.

Their rounded heads look similar to their tails, making it somewhat difficult to tell one end from the other.

This characteristic helps to fool predators who will grab the wrong end of the snake when it is coiled up with its head buried in the center and tail raised.

Characteristics Of A Corn Snake

Often corn snakes are seen as a great starter pet for anyone wanting to get a snake because they are so docile and don’t mind being held.

Unlike their cousins, the coral snake, a corn snake is nonvenomous and will constrict its food using its muscles and teeth.

These snakes can grow as large as 3′ feet to 5′ feet as adults, but because of their slender build, they are still manageable.

In the United States, these snakes are native to the southeast.

Corn snakes come in a variety of colors in the wild, and with different genetic variations due to breeding, there is even more color “morphs” seen in captive corn snakes.

In captivity, these snakes have been known to live between 15 and 25 years.


Telling a corn snake from a coral snake is not a difficult task if you know and understand the characteristics of both snakes.

Look at the head of the snake to help make your determination.

Corn snakes will have an angular head while a coral snake will have a rounded black head.

Besides this, the two snakes are easily distinguished by the color and patterns found on their bodies.

Remember the rhyme, “Red touch black, safe for Jack.

Red touch yellow kills a fellow.”

Corn snakes are nonvenomous and will be easily distinguished by their saddle-like blotches on the back of their body, rather than the red and yellow continuous rings of a coral snake.

When in doubt, do not approach a snake you think may be the venomous coral snake and call animal control for a proper handler to move the animal from your home.

Check out all the best corn snake morphs.

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