One of the wonderful staff at Sakahang Lilok shared that she occasionally saw a coral snake while she worked in the farm’s vegetable garden. I had shown her pictures of the snakes in the area and she confirmed that what she saw was a Barred Coral Snake.
Though it rarely bites, the Barred Coral Snake is a venomous species and one needs to exert caution when around them. I came to Lilok back in 2017 to give a talk on snakes and how we can coexist with them on the farm, as well as what to do in the unlikely event that someone gets bit by a venomous snake. This staff member took in all of that and I can trust that she will do the right thing when she sees such snakes.
The coral snake doesn’t want to bother people but in fact is a snake eater. It probably comes to the garden to look for Brahminy Blind Snakes or other little snakes that poke around the soil.
Barred Coral Snakes are quite beautiful. They have some variety but if you see a snake with black and white bands, there’s a good chance this is what you’re seeing. Remember, no one should touch any snake unless they have experience with the species and can confidently identify exactly what it is.
A few Barred Coral Snakes in the Philippines
Where do they live?
Barred Coral Snakes are found in moist forests in lowlands and low hills, sometimes venturing into nearby agriculture to hunt.
What do they eat?
The Barred Coral Snake feeds on smaller snakes, especially little burrowing snakes like worm snakes and blind snakes.
Are they dangerous?
The Barred Coral Snake has a dangerous bite and you should always maintain a safe distance. It does not like to bite people and will almost never bite unless it is grabbed or seriously provoked. Snakebites occur when someone accidentally steps on a snake, tries to grab a snake, or tries to kill a snake. So the best way to avoid snakebite is to be careful where you step and to leave snakes alone when you see them!
Like other coral snakes, the venom of the Barred Coral Snake has neurotoxic effects. That means it affects the nervous system, including important functions like the signals that control your lungs. If anyone is bit by a coral snake you should keep them calm and rush them to a hospital immediately, preferably one with a respirator. Most home remedies for snakebite are not effective or can even do harm.
Are they in danger?
The Barred Coral Snake is a rarely seen species – it was difficult to find photos for this account! We don’t know if we rarely see them because they actually are rare or if they just hide very well. They have a wide distribution so they are probably okay so long as the forest they need remains.
What is their scientific name and classification?
The Barred Coral Snake is scientifically known as Hemibungarus calligaster. They are a member of the elapid family, which are a group of slender snakes with hollow fangs in the front of their mouth for delivering venom to their prey.
Here’s a video of a Barred Coral Snake moving along the ground at Miyamit Falls. What would you do if you saw a coral snake? What would be the safest choice?