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      Nature Report: Similar Snakes

      Slipping beneath a mesquite branch in the brush country of deep South Texas, a Mexican milk snake glides past a patch of blooming pitaya cactus.

      Draped over a weathered log, a brilliantly banded coral snake remains motionless, except for an occasionally flicking tongue.

      Both the Mexican milk snake and coral snake can be found throughout the Valley where habitat remains.

      While similar in appearance, their pattern of banding is distinctly different.

      At first glance, the harmless Mexican milk snake may be mistaken for a venomous coral snake. However, on closer inspection it becomes obvious the colorfully banded milk snake has red and black bands that touch, while the coral snake has red and yellow bands that align.

      When the red and yellow bands touch it denotes coral snake, and one of the old rhymes is "red and yellow kill a fellow, red and black venom lack."

      This fascinating form of mimicry the milk snake has evolved with may help ward of potential predators, but unfortunately the harmless snake so closely resembles the venomous coral snake that some people may kill the milk snake without first properly identifying it.

      The Texas coral snake does possess venom more powerful than any other North American reptile, yet few people are harmed by the shy snake, as they are not likely to bite anyone unless handled.

      Their tiny rigid fangs are less than one-eighth inch long and are too short to easily penetrate clothing.

      With your Nature Report I'm Richard Moore.