Painted coral snake
Cobra coral pintada (Spanish)
Aspide Korallen (German)
Species: Micrurus corallinus.
The painted coral snake is native to South America. It can be found in the forests of eastern Brazil. It dwells in the woodland, mostly on the loose ground where it can dig holes.
These snakes are mostly nocturnal and are seldom seen in open spaces, although sometimes they are encountered near residential areas. The painted coral snake prefers either damp woodland ground or sand. It is rarely seen on the surface, mostly in the rain or during the mating season.
The painted coral snake grows to about 60-70 m. It has a small head and a short (about 10 cm) tail. The head is blunt, the mouth doesn’t stretch. The venomous fangs are small too.
The snake is brightly colored. The main color is red which is interrupted by black rings. On the head and on the tail of the snake black rings are separated from the red ones with narrow white-yellow rings covered with black dots (each scale on them has a black tip).
The painted coral snake sheds about 6 times a year. It drinks a lot but it doesn’t go into the water.
It is a secretive nocturnal snake. It lives and breeds in the holes which they dig.
The painted coral snake bites people very rarely, only if it doesn’t have a choice. The glands of this snake contain several lethal doses of venom. If the bite was sliding, the clinical pattern is not obvious. If the bite was efficient, the symptoms develop very quickly and are very badly treated. The wound can be very small, since the fangs of the snake aren’t big. The pain comes and goes. The most common symptom after the bite is vomiting. It can be one-off or continuous and it starts 5-10 minutes after the bite. A bad headache may appear as well. The poison of the painted coral snake also causes albuminuria. In some cases cardiovascular collapse can lead to death before the paralysis develops. This happens due to cardiotoxic effect of the painted coral snake’s venom.
The painted coral snake should have a special enclosure due to the hazards related to its keeping. The enclosure should have a hiding place for the snake that can be safely closed from outside of the enclosure: it will guarantee the safety of the person who will be cleaning the enclosure. The enclosure should be vertical, at least 40х30х60 cm. The bottom can be covered by a thick layer of coconut cuttings. The snake will also need some branches to climb and a bowl with fresh clean water (has to be changed daily). The air inlets in the enclosure have to be safely closed since coral snakes are agile and can be adept at escaping. Also they can use the inlets for biting their owners.
The ambient temperature in the enclosure should be in the range of 22 – 24°C at night and 25 – 27°C at daytime. It is best to use the heat pad.
These snakes need a high level of humidity, about 70%, so you will have to mist daily.
You have to keep the light on around the clock for safety reasons, since snakes can see in the dark better than people and the enclosure should be lit at all times.
In the wild the painted coral snake eats mainly amphibians – frogs, toads, and small reptiles – lizards and snakes. Also they can eat large insects.
In the captivity the menu of the coral snake normally consists of small rodents: mice and rats. You can also feed the snake with large cockroaches. It is best to feed the snake twice a week and see to not overfeeding it. You have to add minerals and vitamins to the food.
It is essential to always have fresh clean water in the bowl because the painted coral snake drinks a lot. It can go on without food for a long time, but without water it dies after 3-5 days.
The painted coral snake is extremely venomous!
They are not recommended to be kept as pets, but if you still decide to do that, it is best to have a special separate room for it. You mustn’t ever handle this snake; in order to take it you will need a special hook.
The venomous fangs are located in front of the upper jaw. The venom gland is located behind the eyes, on the scull bones. When biting, the painted coral snake tries to hold their victim as hard as they can in order to make the effect of the poison as strong as possible.
In contrast with other snakes, the painted coral snake in most active when it is hot.
If the snake refuses to eat, it can be caused by stress, unsuitable food, or it can happen that the snake just is not hungry. You should not try and force the food into the snake: they can live without food for a long time without any damage for their health. You should only start worrying if your snake doesn’t eat for several months. Then you need to analyze its living conditions and the menu prior to this situation. You should never try to force-feed the coral snake, it is very dangerous.
The coral snake can vomit because of stress, illness or if the prey was too big. Also it can vomit if it was fed during shedding or if the temperature in its enclosure is not suitable. After vomiting you mustn’t feed the snake for 7-10 days, and then you can offer it food taking into account the previous mistakes.
Shedding is not a disease, it is a necessary step in the snake’s growth. Its eyes get milky, their color grows paler and the skin starts coming off. During this time you should be extra careful about the humidity and clean water in the enclosure.
Mites are small parasites that live on the snake’s skin. They stick on the snake’s body between the scales and suck its blood. This can make the snake lethargic and it can turn down the food. To get rid of mites you need to use the weak solution of the same medicine which is used against ticks on cats and dogs. You will also have to disinfect the whole enclosure.
Respiratory diseases are usually caused by potentially pathogenic bacteria if the immune system of the snake doesn’t function properly either due to a stress or to unsuitable living conditions. The symptoms include gasping, open mouth, runny nose. These diseases are treated by the injections of antibiotic called Baytril.
The painted coral snake is an egg-laying species but in the captivity it doesn’t breed.
In the wild the mating season happens once a year, after hibernation. A female emits pheromones which attracts a lot of males that form a huge moving ball. After mating, towards the end of the summer a female lays 2-3 eggs. She usually makes a nest in fallen leaves or in a hole in the ground and warms the eggs with her body. During this time the snakes are extremely aggressive.
Average life span is about 15 years