Coral Snake vs King Snake: 9 Key Differences Explained!

There are lots of different kinds of snakes with different strengths and weaknesses, but I’ve always wondered the difference between a king snake and a coral snake. I wanted to learn more, so I did a little research and here’s what I found.

coral snake vs king snake Coral Snake vs King Snake: 9 Key Differences Explained!

What Is The Difference Between A Coral Snake And A King Snake?

So, what is the difference between a coral snake and a king snake? King snakes are typically larger than coral snakes, with some species reaching up to 10 feet in length. Coral snakes are more venomous than king snakes, and their bites can be fatal to humans if not treated immediately. King snakes are more docile of the two, making them better suited for handling.

Scarlet king snakes have often been confused for coral snakes but they are actually two very different species. Learning that they were different snakes made me want to know why and what truly made them so separate.

After doing more research, I found a lot of cool facts and even some rhymes that may keep these two snakes apart and yet almost identical. 

How Can You Tell the Difference Between Coral Snakes and Scarlet King Snakes? 

What happens when you come upon a yellow, red, and black snake and want to catch it but are uncertain if it is venomous or not?

This scenario might just happen with coral snakes and scarlet king snakes. Coral snakes are beautiful but dangerous, while scarlet king snakes are almost identical in beauty but not harmful to humans. 

Scarlet king snakes and coral snakes are mistaken so often because they both are stripped snakes with yellow, red, and black stripes.

The red, yellow, and black pattern on coral snakes is red yellow black yellow red. For scarlet king snakes, it is red black yellow black red.

Coral snakes always have their yellow stripes touching, and scarlet coral snakes’ yellow stripes never touch red. This is important because if you can see red and yellow touching you need to move away from the snake slowly and carefully: if you see yellow only touching black, you are safe to proceed. 

Another way to try to tell the difference between both of these snakes from far away is to look at their head colors. Scarlet king snakes generally have red heads, while coral snakes have black heads.

While this is not always 100 percent accurate, it is a good general description that can help you differentiate between the two snakes before you get too close. 


King snakes and coral snakes are often confused with one another because of their very similar color patterns. Both king snakes and coral snakes have bands of black, red, and white running the length of their bodies. However, there are some key differences in the colors of these two types of snakes that can help you tell them apart.

One of the most obvious ways to tell a king snake apart from a coral snake is by looking at the order of the colors on their bodies. King snakes always have a band of black followed by a band of red, with the white coming last. Coral snakes, on the other hand, have the reverse pattern, with white being followed by red and then black.

Another way to tell these two types of snakes apart is by looking at the width of their bands. The bands on a king snake are always the same width, while the bands on a coral snake get progressively wider as you move down its body.



King snakes and coral snakes are both venomous, but the amount of venom they produce and the way it affects their prey are different.

King snakes produce a less potent venom that mainly affects the nervous system, causing paralysis. Coral snakes have a more powerful venom that attacks the victim’s respiratory system, making it difficult to breathe. In most cases, the coral snake’s venom is fatal if not treated immediately.

While both types of snakes can be dangerous, it’s important to know the difference between them so you can take the necessary precautions if you encounter one.


When it comes to the size difference between king snakes and coral snakes, the king snake is typically the larger of the two. On average, king snakes measure 3-4 feet in length, while coral snakes only measure 2-3 feet in length. This size difference is largely due to the fact that king snakes are less venomous, while coral snakes are highly venomous. As a result, king snakes tend to grow to be larger than their venomous counterparts.


King snakes are typically found in dry areas such as deserts. They are also common in areas with rocky terrain or scrub brush. King snakes will eat just about anything they can catch, including other snakes.

Coral snakes are typically found in damp environments like swamps or marshes. They prefer to eat small invertebrates, such as worms or insects. Coral snakes are venomous, while king snakes are not.


King snakes generally eat the smaller prey, such as rodents or lizards. Coral snakes, on the other hand, often eat other snakes. This diet difference is likely due to the different habitats of these two types of snakes. King snakes typically live in forests or deserts, where there is not a lot of food available. Coral snakes, on the other hand, live in rainforests where there is an abundance of food.


One of the most distinguishing features between a king snake and a coral snake is the shape of their snouts. King snakes have wide, blunt snouts, while coral snakes have narrow, pointed snouts. This difference is due to the different diets of these two types of snakes.


There are some key differences in the behaviors of Coral and King snakes that can help you distinguish between them.

King snakes are comparatively less venomous than Coral snakes and typically quite docile. They will usually try to avoid confrontation and will only strike if they feel threatened. Coral snakes, on the other hand, are highly venomous and can be aggressive. They are also more likely to bite if they feel threatened.

Another key difference is that king snakes will often coil up when they feel threatened, while coral snakes will rarely do this. Finally, king snakes tend to be more active during the day, while coral snakes are more active at night.

If you see a snake and you’re not sure which type it is, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and keep your distance. If you think you may have been bitten by either type of snake, seek medical attention immediately.


Coral snakes are a group of elapid snakes that can be found in the Americas. They are most commonly found in the southeastern United States, Mexico, Central America, and South America. Coral snakes are venomous and can be dangerous to humans if they are not properly handled.

The first recorded instance of a coral snake was by Christopher Columbus during his exploration of the Americas. Since then, many different species of coral snake have been discovered. The most well-known species is the common or banded coral snake (Micrurus fulvius).

Coral snakes are often brightly colored, with bands of red, yellow, and black. This coloration is thought to be a form of camouflage, as it helps the snakes blend in with their surroundings. Coral snakes are also sometimes known as “red-bellied snakes” due to the red coloration of their bellies.

Coral snakes typically grow to be about 3-4 feet (0.9-1.2 meters) in length, but some species can reach lengths of up to 6 feet (1.8 meters). These snakes are timid by nature and will often try to avoid contact with humans. However, they will bite if they feel threatened or if they are accidentally touched or handled.

Coral snake bites can be very dangerous, as their venom is highly toxic. Symptoms of a coral snake bite may include pain at the site of the bite, swelling, tingling, numbness, paralysis, and difficulty breathing. If not treated promptly, a coral snake bite can be fatal.

If you see a coral snake, it is best to leave it alone and avoid contact. If you must handle one of these snakes, be sure to use extreme caution and wear protective gloves. If you are bitten by a coral snake, seek medical attention immediately and call 911.

King snakes, on the other hand, are a type of large, less venomous snake that is found throughout North and South America. There are many different species of king snake, all of which vary in size, color, and patterns. King snakes are typically known for their docile nature and their ability to kill and eat other snakes, including venomous ones.

The first recorded king snake was found in North America during the late 1700s. Since then, they have been widely distributed throughout the continent and have become one of the most popular pet snakes in the world. However, there are still many misconceptions about these creatures. For example, some people believe that king snakes are immune to venomous snake bites. This is not true; while king snakes are resistant to venom, they are not immune to it.

Despite their bad reputation, king snakes are actually shy and gentle creatures that make great pets. If you’re thinking about getting a king snake, be sure to do your research first and find a reputable breeder. With the proper care, your new pet will bring you years of enjoyment.


Assuming you have already decided to get a king snake as a pet, congrats! They make great companions. Here are some tips on how to best take care of your new reptilian friend:

First and foremost, you will need to provide your snake with an appropriate enclosure. A glass terrarium or aquarium makes for a good home and should be big enough for your snake to move around comfortably. It is also important to include a tight fitting lid to prevent escapees. The enclosure should be equipped with a hiding spot and some form of décor, like rocks or branches, for your snake to climb on. The temperature inside the enclosure should be maintained between 74 and 84 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and can drop to 65 degrees Fahrenheit at night.

Your snake will also need a water bowl big enough for it to soak in. It is important to change the water regularly to prevent bacterial growth.

Now that you have the basics down, you will need to feed your snake live prey. King snakes typically eat rodents, like mice or rats. You can purchase these from a pet store or catch them yourself if you are feeling brave. Feeding frequency depends on the size of your snake, but generally speaking, young snakes should be fed every 5 to 7 days, while adult snakes can be fed every 10 to 14 days.

Finally, it is important to handle your snake frequently so that it gets used to you. This will make it less likely to bite when you need to clean its enclosure or take it out for a vet visit. King snakes are generally low-maintenance pets, but by following these simple tips, you can ensure that your king snake stays healthy and happy for years to come.

When it comes to Coral snakes, here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to caring for them:

First and foremost, coral snakes are highly venomous. As such, it is imperative that you take precautions when handling them. Wear gloves and long sleeves whenever possible, and avoid handling them if you have any open cuts or wounds on your body. If you must handle them, always do so with extreme care.

Secondly, coral snakes require a warm environment. They should be kept in an enclosure that has a temperature between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. You can use a heat lamp to create this environment if necessary.

Thirdly, coral snakes need access to water. A shallow dish of water should be provided for them to soak in. Be sure to change the water regularly, as coral snakes are susceptible to bacterial infections.

Finally, coral snakes should be fed a diet of small rodents and insects. Live food is best, but frozen, or freeze-dried food can also be offered. Feed them only as much as they can eat in one sitting, as coral snakes tend to overeat and become obese if allowed to free-feed.

By following these simple tips, you can provide your coral snake with the ideal care it needs to thrive.

King Snake Vs. Coral Snake: Similarities

  • Both coral snakes and king snakes are members of the Colubridae family of snakes.
  • Coral snakes and king snakes both have brightly colored patterns on their skin.
  • The pattern on a coral snake’s skin is typically red, yellow, and black, while the pattern on a king snake’s skin is typically black and white.
  • Coral snakes and king snakes are both venomous, though the venom of a coral snake is typically more potent.
  • Coral snakes and king snakes are both found in North and South America
  • Coral snakes and king snakes both eat small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects.

Rhymes That Help You Remember How to Tell Whether or Not a Snake is a Coral Snake

While taking a walk through the woods, you run into an adorable or scary (depending on your perspective) stripped snake, but you don’t know if it is venomous or not.

Well, have no fear because there is a nifty rhyme that helps people remember how to tell if the snake they are looking at is a coral snake. 

              Red touches black, friend of Jack. Red touches yellow, kills a fellow  

This little rhyme was invented to help recognize coral snakes but also how to tell the difference between coral snakes and scarlet king snakes.

There are a couple of variations on this rhyme that some find easier to remember, though if you struggle to remember the original. 

Alternate rhymes 

Yellow touches red, you’ll be dead. Black touches red, keep your head.

Red touches yellow, you’re a dead fellow. Red touches black, venom lack 

Why Do People Mistake Coral Snakes and Scarlet King Snakes?

Despite the fact that coral snakes and scarlet king snakes look incredibly alike, there are actually a few other reasons that these two snakes are mistaken for each other. The first is location. 

Scarlet king snakes and coral snakes are both located in the South Eastern United States specifically in states like Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina. Both of these twin snakes like habitats that are wooded, sandy, and marsh-like.

Because of the similarities in these two snakes’ habitats people struggle to be able to tell the difference between them. 

Another reason that these two snakes are hard to differentiate is that they both love to burrow and are exceptionally good at it.

Walking down a path in the woods, it is very unlikely to see a coral snake or scarlet king snake slithering around in the trees, although it does happen sometimes, it is way more likely to see one of these little guys hiding in a pile of leaves or poking out of a burrow in the ground. 

Another way that these snakes like to be confusing is their diets. Even though you hopefully won’t be using food intake to try and tell the difference between a coral snake and scarlet king snakes, this information is really cool.

Both of these snakes make lizards, frogs, and bird eggs a part of their normal diet. The crazy thing about these two different species of snakes is that THEY BOTH EAT OTHER SNAKES! 

Because these snakes have so many similarities like colors, patterns, and even habitats, it is hard to see or understand how they are different. There are some major differences that these two snakes that keep them very separate. 

Other Major Differences Between Coral Snakes and Scarlet King Snakes

Coral snakes belong to the same family as cobras, mambas, and sea snakes.

This is why they are venomous and why they are so dangerous. Scarlet king snakes, on the other hand, are a species of king snakes that are only dangerous if you happen to be another snake. 

Their biggest difference though is the fact that scarlet king snakes are not venomous while coral snakes are. 

Scarlet king snakes are fairly small snakes and are far smaller than other species of king snakes. They normally only grow to be about a foot and a half.

Coral snakes are mammoths compared to scarlet king snakes because they grow to be three or four feet in length. This is a huge difference and one that is fairly visible. 

Why do Scarlet King Snakes Look like Coral Snakes?

Many animals and reptiles use camouflage as a way of staying out of danger. Scarlet king snakes cannot camouflage, and so instead, they mimic a dangerous neighbor. 

Scarlet king snakes have evolved over the years to look like coral snakes so that they could scare away other predators that may be dangerous and would want to hurt them. 

“This type of mimicry, where a harmless species mimics a harmful species, is known as Batesian mimicry”   

Bill Heyborne, a herpetologist and professor of biology at Southern Utah University

Although this evolution was supposed to protect scarlet king snakes, it sometimes backfires because humans think they are coral snakes and kill them.

Even with this risk, though, this intimidation device that is their skin has been helpful for protecting scarlet king snakes. 

Can King Snakes be Harmful to Humans?

Scarlet king snakes and really all king snakes, in general, are not harmful to humans. They are normally very docile snakes and often make for fantastic pets. 

If a scarlet king snake were ever to bite a human, it would maybe draw blood but would hurt more than a cat scratch would hurt. As was stated above, these little guys like to look harmful for protection, but really their “bark” truly is stronger than their bite. 

If you happen to be a snake or want to own two snakes, scarlet king snakes and all king snakes, in general, should not be paired together in the same terrarium.

King snakes will eat their cage mates and will become very vicious if their home is occupied be another snake. This is even true when trying to mate king snakes, so be very careful. 

Related Questions

Milk Snakes vs. King Snakes? These snakes are very similar and docile. Although they are different snakes, they both belong to the same family. If looking to keep one of these snakes as a pet, both are beautiful and make for splendid pets. 

Can Coral Snakes Kill You? Coral snakes are extremely venomous but are rarely fatal to humans. While their venom is very toxic, it takes coral snakes multiple bites to be able to inject the kind of venom that can kill a human.

Can a Coral Snake Bite Kill a Dog? Coral snakes can actually be quite venomous and dangerous for dogs, so it is important to take your pet to the vet if you suspect that it has been bit by this venomous snake.