Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Red on Yellow - Kill a Fellow

I transport snakes across the Everglades from time to time. Yesterday I drove my first venomous snake across.

They're display animals that I shuttle from Fort Lauderdale to Fort Myers including an Everglades Rat Snake, several Green Tree Snakes and a Florida Kingsnake among other reptiles. Yesterday the boss called and said there was a Coral Snake he needed me to transport and I would have to arrange to pick it up.

So I called Tom Crutchfield - one of the leading reptile experts in the U.S. and asked what I would have to do to get the venomous snake from coast to coast.

"You'll have to be very careful" he explained. "They're pushers and the like to push their way out of the bags". Incredulous, I told him that I would be picking up the snake around 5 PM but was not leaving the Miami area until 8 PM. So he impressed upon me that I would have to take great care. I wouldn't want a deadly Coral Snake loose in the cab of my truck as I drove across the Everglades at night.

After I hung up my mind started to race. I don't want to sound like a coward although I am and I don't want to tell them I can't do this, but I've had a Black Rat Snake escape and slither across my dashboard as I drove through the mountains of Vermont. I can imagine the red, yellow and black stripes reflected in my windshield now. Not good.

Maybe it's a Scarlet Kingsnake? - a non-venomous snake that mimics the Coral Snake in appearance, (providing a defense for itself). Maybe they're playing me? After 20 minutes the boss calls back and says there's nothing to fear. The snake will be well contained and they were just giving me a hard time.

I picked up the snake - well-contained in a plastic cookie tub, taped shut with packing tape and carefully tucked into a cloth bag which was then zip tied.

My sister Mandy was in town for a few days and was cool enough to let me drive her around Miami with a venomous snake in a bag at her feet.

Apparently, Coral Snakes are not aggressive and rarely bite. I didn't tempt it. They are also escape artists and the extra precautions were in fact necessary. Thank You. Ultimately the venom is the snakes tool for capturing prey but even the largest of coral snakes have small mouthes and recurved teeth, making it difficult to bite a human. They have to gnaw. But it could happen and antivenin for such bites is becoming harder to come by.

So if you come across one, don't kill it. Give it space and remember.

Red on Yellow Kill a Fellow
Red on Black ok for Jack

Either way I don't want to be bitten.


  1. your last phrase sounds like "if its yellow let it meadow.... if its brown give it a ride" (I 'm not even sure if im saying it properly) ...

    Im glad the snake stayed where it was supposed to...

  2. I've got them in my yard... twice in one month i saw one. (or it could have been two different ones). Took a pic too! i couldn't believe i actually saw something so venomous. i followed him around for over 2 hours. he made a giant circle around the property. scarrrryyy!!!