Knowing the difference between a milk snake and a coral snake is significant, especially if you want to get any as a pet snake. Understanding the difference and distinguishing one snake type from the other can help you decide which pet snake to keep. People confuse these two snakes with each other a lot. Yes, the snakes have similar appearances, but several ways to separate one snake breed from the other.

Differences Between Milk Snakes and Coral Snakes 1 5 Key Differences Between Milk Snakes and Coral Snakes

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What’s the difference between a Milk snake and a Coral snake?

One of the significant differences is that the milk snake is not venomous while the coral snake is venomous. Coral snakes have yellow rings on every side of their red bands, but milk snakes have black rings on every side of their red bands. Also, milk snakes tend to be smaller than coral snakes.

Confusing one of these snakes for the other might be very dangerous, especially if you are looking for a pet snake. This is because one is poisonous while the other is not. So, extreme care and caution are needed when handling the venomous coral snake, unlike milk snakes, which are easier to handle.

When you visit a pet store, you need basic knowledge of snake species, so you’re better at deciding what to take home. To better understand the differences between these two types of snakes and how you can confidently differentiate one from the other, let us look at the unique traits in detail.

Milk Snake Vs Coral Snake: What’s The Difference?

Knowing how to tell these two types of snakes apart will significantly help you when you want to handle them. That way, you will take the necessary precautions and follow the correct guidelines when handling a specific breed of snakes.

The differences also help you tell and provide the best care and need for your snakes, especially if you are looking to adopt one. It helps you better meet and give the proper requirements for your pet snake and thus take better care of them.

Despite the differences, both milk snakes and coral snakes are good breeds that you can keep as pet snakes. They don’t require complicated husbandry, and even beginners can take care of the snakes. So, if you are looking to start keeping snake pets, these species are a good place to start.

The ability to distinguish the two breeds also comes in handy when doing outdoor activities such as hiking. You will be able to avoid snakebite and keep your family and friends safe from venomous snakes.

Let’s dive into the five leading ways that a coral snake differs from a milk snake.

Differences Between Milk Snakes and Coral Snakes 1 1 5 Key Differences Between Milk Snakes and Coral Snakes

The Size of the Snakes

Milk snakes are among the tiniest snake species, seldom growing more than 60 inches. The majority of milk snakes are under three feet long.

Since they are tiny, milk snakes make excellent family pets because they do not require huge tanks or enclosures. The milk snake’s size makes it a nice snake to manage because it isn’t too bulky or enormous for most people to handle.

When you compare it to most of the world’s largest poisonous snakes, the coral snake is a little snake. On the other hand, Coral snakes are generally at least 3ft long and are much larger and longer than milk snakes.

Although the size difference may be challenging to notice, coral snakes dwarf milk snakes at first sight when comparing them side by side.

Appearance of the Snakes

There is no arguing that the milk snake is one of the most colorful and beautiful snakes. Furthermore, milk snakes come in various colors and have bands with different colors alternating throughout their bodies.

Milk snakes have two main color patterns on their bodies, i.e., red, black, white or yellow, black, and red. Still, some milk snakes do not have the color bands and rings but rather blotches similar to those common in various snake species.

The coral snake, on the other, is eerily similar in appearance to the milk snake. However, there are discernable differences in appearance between the two types. The coral snakes do come with bands of black, yellow, and red colors.

Unlike milk snakes, the coral snakes’ yellow rings and red bands always touch each other. Also, it is the black band that separates the red and yellow bands on a milk snake.

People, mostly snake enthusiasts and specialists, have an easy way of distinguishing one type of snake from the other. They use the saying, “Red on black, venom lacks. Red on yellow, kill a fellow”.

Red on black refers to the color bands on a milk snake, and ” venom lack” refers to the snake not being venomous. Likewise, “Red on yellow” refers to the color bands on a coral snake, and “kill a fellow” refers to how the snake is dangerous because it is venomous.


Differences Between Milk Snakes and Coral Snakes 2 5 Key Differences Between Milk Snakes and Coral Snakes

One of the main things making milk snakes the best and safest snakes to have as a pet is the fact that they are not venomous. They do not have fangs or venom sacks.

The breed of snake is docile and gentle and is very easy to handle if they are not threatened or afraid. Due to their docile and calm nature, milk snakes are less likely to bite you than other snakes.

Even when a milk snake bites a human, its bite is harmless and, in most cases, does not draw any blood since milk snakes have very tiny teeth that cannot easily break the human skin.

One of the most important reasons you have to be able to tell the difference between a milk snake and a coral snake is that it might save your life. Trying to handle a coral snake because you think it is a milk snake is a horrible idea because coral snakes have the second deadliest venom among all snakes.

Unlike milk snakes, coral snakes have venom sacs. The fangs connect to the sac and provide a way for the snake to deliver venom with its bite.

When a coral snake bites, it tends to be able to deliver more venom. This is mainly because the snake has smaller fangs and, as such, cannot deliver venom efficiently like most other venomous snakes. This trait means that even when they bite you, they are not likely to deliver enough venom to put your life in danger immediately.

However, you should note that the venom is still dangerous and can cause many different complications. Some of these may include vomiting, nausea, drooling, and numbness. Even though cases of people dying from a bite from a coral snake are very rare, the chance of death increases the longer one stays without receiving treatment.

Whenever you are bitten by a coral snake or any other venomous snake, we advise you to seek medical attention immediately.

Behavior and Temperament of the Snakes

Temperament and behavior are crucial factors, especially when choosing a snake you want to adopt as a pet.

Milk snakes have the ideal temperament for a pet snake. They love when you handle them and do not tend to be aggressive. Generally, milk snakes are not aggressive or defensive.

In most cases, the milk snakes get aggressive or defensive when they are frightened or shedding. They may also be aggressive if they see you holding their food in your hands.

Despite being a venomous snake, the coral snake is not regarded as the most aggressive of the group. However, you should note that they are venomous and never take any chances. Only about one percent of snake bites in the USA are by coral snakes.

These only tend to be aggressive whenever they feel threatened or when shedding. When you notice a coral snake exhibiting defensive or aggressive behavior, we advise you to let it be or get a professional to handle it.

Remember, the venom from this snake can be harmful to your body and even life-threatening, especially when delivered in high volumes.

Habitat of the Snakes

One thing making milk snakes one of the most kept pet snake breeds is that they are found in most places across the globe. Due to this, there are many milk snake subspecies.

You can find milk snakes in forest regions. It is not uncommon to find some in populated areas, especially because they hunt rodents mainly in areas where people are. Other species live on rocky slopes. Generally, the milk snakes in the various subspecies have different habitats.

On the other hand, coral snakes are found in specific areas, even though they also have many subspecies. Coral snakes like temperate regions such as Florida, Texas, and Arizona, among other places. You may also find coral snakes in forest regions, especially in burrows or leaf piles.

If you encounter a snake that you are not sure whether it is a milk or coral snake, and you do not live in a temperate region, it is a milk snake. On the other hand, you are more likely to come across a coral snake in temperate regions.

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