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      The Nature Report: Coral Snake

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

      Soon the serpent rouses from its temporary repose, and continues the morning hunt. The Texas coral snake possesses venom more powerful than any other North American reptile.

      The venom is more than eight times as lethal as that of the western diamondback rattler and approximately equal in potency to the toxins of most cobras. 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. This brightly colored specimen is some three feet in length, but they can grow to nearly four feet.

      As the serpent slithers across the log, the distinctive red, yellow and black bands glisten in the early morning sun.

      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. While this adage is a good reminder for identification in Texas, it doesn TMt hold true for coral snakes in Central America where some have red bands bordered by black just like the harmless milk snake. Probing beneath dry leaves and investigating cavities of old logs, the coral snake searches for other smaller snakes to prey on as well as lizards.

      Coral snakes are active during the day, particularly at dawn and dusk, and are a fascinating denizen of the South Texas wildlands.