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Coral Snakes in Guatemala

Coral snakes in Guatemala jungle

FINCA TATIN, Guatemala- One bite from a coral snake and you are more or less dead meat. Huge doses of antivenin and artificial or mechanical respiration are needed to preserve life, and a single bite has been proven fatal within hours. The neurotoxin from a coral snake paralyzes the breathing muscles, the victim asphyxiates.

Coral snakes live throughout the world, in the western hemisphere they inhabit the south of the USA, and nearly all of Central and South America.

Coral snakes, apparently, also inhabit the region in front of my door step at the Finca Tatin in the eastern jungles of Guatemala.

I was standing outside of my room one night, looking at the clouds move before the stars above the jungle canopy. I got a funny feeling, I shined my flashlight down by my feet. There was a coral snake.

It looked like a worm, flaying about its tail, hovering its head. I looked closer, I remembered my youthful Herpetological studies — “If red touches yellow your a dead fellow, if red touches black your OK jack” the maxim to identify new world species’ of coral snake. What I was looking at was a baby coral. A distinctive yellow band over the head and a red body with black patches told me so. In the dark of night I crouched down over the little snake and watched it move. I had never observed a coral snake in the wild before. I took photos, the snake eventually fled beneath a stone and into the jungle that butts up to my room.

The next day I showed the photos to a couple men who have grown up in this jungle, men who beyond a doubt can distinguish a coral snake from a variety of benign though well disguised look alikes .

“Es un coral.”


A couple of days later a guest to the Finca Tatin announced that an adult coral snake was recently found at the Finca Perico up river near Fronteras. I told her that I found one in front of my room. She did not take this news lightly.

“There are poisonous snakes here!?!”

And tarantulas, scorpions, large spiders, jaguars, malarial mosquitoes, dengue. We are in the jungle.

Range and habitat of coral snakes in the Americas

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Filed under: Animals, Central America, Rain Forests

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 80 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3165 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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