Coral snakes are carnivorous by nature. These highly venomous snakes have a varied palate and seek sustenance by hunting for food in the undergrowth. They don’t eat fruit and vegetables.
These venomous snakes like to eat smaller animals, such as rodents, wild mice, and rats. A coral snake may also eat other reptiles, such as lizards or smaller snakes, or amphibians and birds.
There are non-venomous snakes that look like the coral snake, so it’s crucial that you’re able to identify them correctly. Coral snakes making their way onto your property could be dangerous. Removing access to their food source could be a good way of avoiding unwelcome visitors.
- 1 What is the Diet of the Coral Snake?
- 2 What Do Baby Coral Snakes Eat?
- 3 When Do Coral Snakes Eat?
- 4 How Often Do Coral Snakes Eat?
- 5 How Do Coral Snakes Capture Food?
- 6 How Do Coral Snakes Eat Their Food?
- 7 Which Wild Animals Eat Coral Snakes?
What is the Diet of the Coral Snake?
Coral snakes are highly venomous, but they are not aggressive by nature. Like all snakes, this breed is afraid of predators. As a result, coral snakes prefer to stay out of sight and underground. Rather than confronting an animal that may harm them, the coral snake will hunt smaller prey.
Some of the common prey for coral snakes in the wild includes:
|What Coral Snakes Like to Eat|
|Small Lizards:||These are a favorite delicacy of the coral snake. Geckos, iguanas, and skinks will not be able to defend themselves against a coral snake.|
|Smaller Snakes:||They will look to eat a smaller snake wherever possible. The similarity in shape ensures that digestion will not be a problem. Coral snakes will have no qualms about eating another coral snake if necessary. They are mostly immune to the impact of their own venom.|
|Frogs:||Coral snakes are not necessarily aquatic, but they will hunt in moist and humid conditions. This means that they may eat frogs and toads in the wild. This could also lead to coral snakes hunting around a garden pond.|
|Rats and Mice:||Rodents are a constant source of nourishment for all snakes due to their abundance. Wild coral snakes will tuck into rats and mice at any opportunity.|
|Birds:||They enjoy eating birds, but sometimes struggle to do so. Snakes struggle to digest feathers, and some prey birds manage to escape before digestion. Coral snakes tend to stick to eating recent hatchlings from a nest. However, a determined snake may hang from a branch and strike at a passing bird.|
|Insects:||If a coral snake is struggling to find bigger prey, they may eat insects. This will not be their first choice of food, however.|
As you will see, the coral snake is only interested in live prey. Although they dwell in leaves and trees, coral snakes will not eat plants or berries. The preferred food of a coral snake will vary, however. This breed will change their appetite according to the season, and the availability of food.
Could a Coral Snake Eat a Pet Dog or Cat?
As we have covered, a coral snake will typically avoid antagonizing a larger animal. However, like all snakes, this reptile will bite if it feels threatened.
Snakes are afraid of cats by their very nature, for example. A coral snake won’t hunt or stalk a cat, but that doesn’t mean it won’t bite.
As PetMD explains, this can be dangerous for the feline. Dogs are no more immune to a coral snake’s venom. A canine may be less inclined to hunt a snake, though.
Smaller pets, such as birds or rodents, are at higher risk of attention from coral snakes. If you have a small pet, ensure they remain in their enclosure at all times. If they manage to get outside, they will be at substantial risk from wild coral snakes.
Could a Coral Snake Eat a Human?
The coral snake is not large enough to eat a human, and would not be interested. These snakes are frightened of people and stay well away. They will only bite if handled or stepped upon.
Just because they will not eat us, however, a bite from a coral snake is no laughing matter. This is the most dangerous snake in America in terms of pure venom.
If you are bitten by a coral snake, you should head straight to the ER for an antivenin. Even if there is no immediate impact from the bite, this can quickly change. The side effects of a coral snake can be slow, but they’re always dangerous.
What Do Baby Coral Snakes Eat?
A freshly hatched coral snake will be around seven inches in length, and fully venomous. This means that they will hunt as normal from their earliest days.
However, baby coral snakes also eat bird and reptile eggs for sustenance. It may even eat the eggs of their sibling before they hatch. They could even eat a smaller nest mate.
When Do Coral Snakes Eat?
Coral snakes are nocturnal. This means that they will typically hunt late at night, or early in the morning. Temperatures and different seasons play a sizable role in the activity of a coral snake.
How Often Do Coral Snakes Eat?
There is no hard-and-fast rule as to how often coral snakes like to eat. Most snakes can function perfectly well on an empty stomach. It also takes a coral snake up to a week to digest food. This means that they will not have to hunt for food constantly.
If a coral snake is pregnant, or due to start shedding their skin, they will fast. Ambient temperature will also affect a snake’s willingness to hunt and feed. Any conditions that are too hot or cold will encourage a coral snake to hide out.
How Do Coral Snakes Capture Food?
Coral snakes are hunters and are not outright aggressive. This means they will not fight a prey animal. Instead, they will stalk them through the undergrowth.
Alternatively, the coral snake can be very patient. Rather than actively seeking prey, they may lie very still and wait. Taking this latter approach also uses less energy, This means that a coral snake needs to eat less frequently and can bide their time.
Once a coral snake has identified their prey, they need to subdue it. Coral snakes are not part of the constrictor family, so they struggle to asphyxiate prey.
Instead, they will strike quickly and sink their front-loaded fangs into a target. This will subdue, and eventually paralyze, the animal. Some animals will escape if the fangs fail to penetrate their skin. More often than not, however, one rapid strike is enough to immobilize prey.
The more a coral snake chews, the more venom they release. This will eventually kill their prey, How long this takes depends on the target. If the animal has fur or feathers, for example, it will take longer to die. These additional components will offer protection against the snake’s venom.
How Do Coral Snakes Eat Their Food?
Once the prey has been appropriately subdued, the coral snake is ready to start eating. Like all snakes, the coral swallows their meals whole.
The first thing that the coral snake must do is open their jaw. This involves open the mouth extremely wide. Snakes open their mouths with the aid of an additional bone in their jaw.
In addition to this, their lower jawbone separates into two. These two factors mean that a snake can bring prey larger than themselves into their mouths.
Once the venom of the coral snake’s fangs paralyzes their food, they can begin eating. This involves wriggling and forcing the animal into their body.
This is why it’s possible to see what a snake has swallowed. They do not break down their food in advance through chewing. The venom, however, does release many enzymes that soften up the prey.
Eventually, the prey animal will make its way into the snake’s stomach. From there, the acids and enzymes get to work. This will allow the snake to slowly but surely digest their meal.
Coral Snake Digestion
The digestive system of a snake is a slow process. It can take a coral snake up to four days to digest a small meal, such as a mouse. If the snake eats something more substantial, it could take a week or more.
Once the food makes its way into a snake’s stomach, acids and enzymes break it down. A snake can also temporarily increase in body mass while digesting.
This could be as much as double or treble the size of the reptile. As the prey food is slowly digested, the snake will steadily return to their traditional size.
While the snake is digesting, they will be hugely lethargic. Coral snakes are rarely sociable or active animals anyway, but this goes double after eating.
They will find somewhere they feel protected and secure and largely doze. If anybody or anything attempts to encroach on this territory, aggression is likely.
Temperature is also essential for snake digestion. If the reptile is too cold, they will struggle to digest. A snake uncomfortable with their temperature will also retain body heat toward their tail.
This will cause any waste to heat up, and then harden. This will place pressure on the snake’s organs, and leave them constipated.
This is more crucial than you may realize. A snake must excrete their food before they can eat again. There will not be enough room in their stomachs otherwise. Once a coral snake has digested their food, it turns to waste.
Several days after eating, this waste will be excreted through a tail flap called the cloaca. Once a snake has passed a movement, they will be ready to hunt again. If a snake over-eats without excretion, the results can be fatal.
Which Wild Animals Eat Coral Snakes?
Of course, the circle of nature dictates that coral snakes are also prey to other animals. This is why they prefer to remain secretive and hide underground wherever possible.
Some of the common animals that feed upon coral snakes are:
- Birds of Prey. Eagles, buzzards and hawks are among the most common predators of coral snakes. As these snakes are nocturnal, however, owls may also hunt them.
- Larger Snakes. Just as a coral snake eats smaller reptiles, a larger snake may eat the coral.
- Toads. It’s very rare that a toad will have the size and ability to consume a coral snake. However, some very large amphibians confuse snakes for worms.
- Nocturnal Mammals. Foxes, raccoons, skunks and the snake’s old nemesis the mongoose all eat the coral snake. This is why the snake prefers to hide underground.
A coral snake may be able to use their venom to protect themselves. However, in most cases, the above animals will strike quickly and render them defenseless. Some predators steer clear of coral snakes, however, as their bright colorings serve as a warning.
When attacked, a coral snake will curl into a ball. This is to distract a predator and make their shape appear awkward to eat. Also, a predator may be confused as to which end of the snake is which.
They will also prefer to bite the tail of a snake, aware of their fangs. Predators unsure of whether they’re looking at a head or tail will rarely take any chances.
Coral snakes need to eat, just like any other animal. Their varied diet ensures that they will rarely go hungry. However, you will probably never see a coral snake feeding in the wild. These reclusive reptiles avoid interaction wherever possible.