Everyone has heard a version of this poem:
Red touches yellow, kills a fellow. Red touches black, friend of Jack or
Red touch yellow, kills a fellow. Red touches black, venom lack. or
Red touch yellow, death says hello. Black touch red, keep your head. or
Yellow touch red, you be dead. Red touch black, eat Cracker Jack. or
Red on yellow and you're a dead fellow. Red on black, you're alright Jack.
Or Red on Yellow, Watch out, Fellow. Red on Black, Friend of Jack.
This rhyme or one of the many variations of it, have been used all over North America to help people from one year old to one hundred easily identify the deadly coral snake from a scarlet snake, corn snake or California king snake, or myriad of other similar snakes none of which is poisonous. While everyone seems to have their own variation to this children’s rhyme, the meaning is simple and to the point. If you are tromping through the woods, in a sandy desert, or a marshy area look for a snake that has red, yellow and black bands. You might be in the presence of a type of coral snake. The eastern coral snake prefers wooded areas, while the Arizona coral snake prefers dry sandy arid areas. The Texas coral snake is found in a variety of marsh or woods. No matter what type of snake you see, the premise is the same. If the yellow and red bands touch, the snake is poisonous.
The Coral snake’s striping will be a very distinctive wide red band, thin yellow band, wide black band then thin yellow band repeated along the snake’s body. Compare this to deadly coral snake’s NON poisonous cousins; a California King has a wide red band, thin black band, wide white band thin black band or a scarlet snake which has bands of yellow, black, red. Likewise the milk snake has a wide red band, medium black band, thin white band, medium back band wide red band, repeating down its body. There are a number of snakes with similar colors to the coral snake, but you can remain safe as long as you remember none have red touching yellow.
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