Eastern coral snakes are easily among the most beautiful and intimidating reptiles in the U.S. Typically, you can pick them out pretty easily from their tell-tale coloring, alternating red and black bands separated by thin yellow stripes. But one Florida biology student discovered an “aberrant” specimen that breaks all expectations of this venomous snake.
The photos surfaced on a Facebook group dedicated to snake identification resources, discussions and relevant topics. Tommy Hamrick, the student behind the photos, shared his experience with the rare find.
Hamrick cited the popular rhyme that locals use to identify eastern coral snakes which goes something like “red on yellow kills a fellow; red on black is venom lack.”
“This particular snake has a high yellow/low red color form which does not obey by the titular rhyme of course and although this is fairly rare it’s one of the reasons why we have the rule against repeating the ryhme (sic),” Hamrick said.
Instead, the snake in question only had yellow and black bands with hints of pink peeking through.
Hamrick found the aberrant eastern coral snake near Lake Wales, about 60 miles east of Tampa.
“My initial reaction was absolute amazement,” Hamrick later told McClatchy News. “I don’t see corals too often and as for aberrant ones, we maybe see one documented in Florida every two years or so.”
“I’d seen this strange color abnormality a few times before,” Hamrick continued. “They were all right with me retrieving the corpse so I made the two-hour drive over to Lake Wales. I knew I might not get this opportunity ever again.”
Strangely-Colored Eastern Coral Snake Is Still Incredibly Venomous
Backing up Hamrick’s findings was Angelina College biology instructor Ashley Wahlberg, who confirmed that the eastern coral snake had aberrancy. This happens when there is a disruption in the snake’s DNA and it cannot replicate properly.
“I have personally found an aberrant Texas coral snake a few years ago, but instead of being mostly yellow it was mostly red,” Wahlberg said.
When Hamrick came upon the creature, he found it dead and separated into several pieces.
Hamrick reported that the property owners where he found the reptile had killed the eastern coral snake, but they promised to alert the biology student if they find any more like it in the area.
Wahlberg added that if you encounter one of these rare creatures, it’s still vital that you keep your space and observe from afar.
“Abnormalities happen in nature, and when dealing with animals that could potentially deliver a life-threatening bite like snakes, we always recommend backing up if you see one and never approach it unless you are 1,000% sure,” she said.