Coral snake, any of several narrow-headed, venomous snakes related to the cobras. Coral snakes are native to many parts of the world, but only two species are found in the United States. The common, or eastern, coral snake (Micrurus fulvius) ranges over the coastal lowlands from North Carolina through Florida and Texas. It may grow 39 inches long or a little longer and has wide black and red bands separated by narrow bright-yellow bands. It is distinguished from certain similarly marked nonvenomous snakes by its black snout and by the fact that its bands almost completely encircle the body. The western coral snake (Micruroides euryxanthus), a rare species, grows only about 18 inches long and lives in Arizona and New Mexico.
Unlike most venomous snakes, coral snakes do not bite unless stepped on or handled. They inject their venom through short, rigid fangs at the front of the upper jaw. The venom, like that of the cobra, is a nerve poison. It depresses the nerve centers that activate the heart and lungs and, if it is injected in sufficiently large quantities, can cause death.
Coral snakes are classified in the order Squamata, family Elapidae.