Can you eat a coral snake?
In this short article, we will answer the question, “can you eat a coral snake?” and will also describe what is a coral snake and the potential health hazards of consuming it..
Can you eat a coral snake?
In theory, you could eat a coral snake, after removing its head and preparing it properly. However, it is not recommended at all as they are highly venomous animals, and their toxins can be even deadly to humans (1-3).
In addition to the venom, there are other potential risks associated with eating a coral snake or other wild reptile products (4).
So, it is best to avoid eating coral snakes and any kind of venomous animal in general!
On the other hand, capturing and killing a coral snake may be hazardous. Be careful and seek medical attention immediately if you are bitten by one!
What is a coral snake and how to recognize them?
Coral snakes are venomous animals mainly distributed in North and South America (5). Most of them are slender and have small heads. They are often found in wooded areas, marshes, and sandy regions. Be careful while walking in those areas!
Several species of coral snakes have been identified displaying different morphological and toxicological characteristics (5). However, all of them can produce neurotoxins that are highly toxic and deadly to humans (2).
They are all easily recognized due to their brightly coloured bands of red, yellow, and black on their bodies (5). This pattern is often described by the rhyme “Red on yellow, kill a fellow; red on black, venom lack“.
Some non-venomous snakes have developed similar coloration patterns as coral snakes (6). Thus, identifying a coral snake is not an easy task and it is always best to avoid their contact!
If you are unsure whether a snake is a coral snake or not, always treat it as a potentially fatal venomous animal and always ask professional advice for handling them.
What are the potential health hazards of consuming a coral snake?
The potential hazards of eating a coral snake include severe poisoning (1-3) and getting a zoonotic disease (4). If you have eaten or you are planning to eat a coral snake, please consider the potential risks and seek advice from experts. It is very dangerous!
The venom of a coral snake is a cocktail of different toxins, mainly neurotoxins that lead to severe symptoms such as muscle paralysis, respiratory failure, and even death in a few hours (3).
Any scrape or abrasion in your mouth, throat, stomach, or intestines should allow the venom to reach your bloodstream and poison you (3). Coral neurotoxins are very dangerous to humans and can be fatal!
On the other hand, ingesting coral meat can also lead to different health problems. The flesh of coral snakes or any other wild reptile can contain harmful toxins and microorganisms (4), which can be very dangerous to humans if ingested.
Be aware that many of these toxins are heat-stable and can withstand high temperatures (7). So, cooking your coral snake may not destroy these toxins, be careful!
Finally, you must be aware that in many countries it is not legal to harm or kill coral snakes, so you are exposing yourself to be judged for violation of wildlife protection laws.
What to do if you have eaten a coral snake?
If you suspect that you have eaten a coral snake, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. Coral neurotoxins are highly toxic and can kill you (1-3)! Call for emergency medical assistance right away!
The venom of coral snakes contains different toxins (mainly neurotoxins) that are harmful to humans and cause serious health complications and even death in a few hours (3). So, it’s essential to get prompt treatment!
Coral snakes are easy to recognize, so try to identify them while consuming. This information can help medical professionals provide appropriate treatment and save your life.
In this short article, we answered the question, “can you eat a coral snake?” and also described what is a coral snake and the potential health hazards of consuming it.. Moreover, we addressed the proper way of handling a coral snake while preparing it for a meal.
1. Hessel MM, McAninch SA. Coral Snake Toxicity. StatPearls [Internet]. 2023 Mar 13 [cited 2023 May 8]; Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519031/
2. Peterson ME. Snake Bite: Coral Snakes. Clin Tech Small Anim Pract. 2006 Nov 1;21(4):183–6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17265902/
3. Vital Brazil O. Coral snake venoms: mode of action and pathophysiology of experimental envenomation. Rev Inst Med Trop Sao Paulo [Internet]. 1987 [cited 2023 May 8];29(3):119–26. Available from: http://www.scielo.br/j/rimtsp/a/PVHJQGmfnbtnYgdJswCnWff/abstract/?lang=en
4. Magnino S, Colin P, Dei-Cas E, Madsen M, McLauchlin J, Nöckler K, et al. Biological risks associated with consumption of reptile products. Int J Food Microbiol [Internet]. 2009 Sep 15 [cited 2023 May 1];134(3):163–75. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19679367/
5. Roze JA. Coral snakes of the Americas: biology, identification, and venoms. Coral snakes Am Biol identification, venoms. 1996; https://www.cabdirect.org/cabdirect/abstract/19972001692
6. Greene HW, McDiarmid RW. Coral Snake Mimicry: Does It Occur? Science (80- ) [Internet]. 1981 Sep 11 [cited 2023 May 8];213(4513):1207–12. Available from: https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.213.4513.1207
7. WOODBURN MJ, SOMERS E, RODRIGUEZ J, SCHANTZ EJ. Heat inactivation rates of botulinum toxins a, b, e and f in some foods and buffers. J Food Sci [Internet]. 1979 Nov 1 [cited 2023 May 6];44(6):1658–61. Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1365-2621.1979.tb09110.x