Police Sgt. Aniceto “Cheto” Perez was figuring out how much mulch he needed to buy for his flowerbeds Sunday afternoon when his wife saw a snake less than three feet away from them.
“We didn’t realize that it was a coral snake at the time,” said Perez, who lives on Arcadia Street. “It was slithering from the flowerbeds onto the grass.”
Perez said if it weren’t for his wife warning him about the coral snake, he could have gotten bit. Perez said the snaked slithered from the flowerbeds to the grass and into their valve box, which has a hole on the cover, for the sprinkler system.
“I usually put my hand in there when I want to turn on the sprinkler manually,” he said.
Immediately, Perez got the closest tool he could find at the time and used an ax to cut the snake in half. He said the snake was still moving and when it squirmed out of the valve box, he hit the snake a second time.
“All of my neighbors came out to see if we were O.K.,” he said.
Perez said they looked up information on the Internet about the snake and confirmed the colors in the order of red, yellow, black is the poisonous coral snake. The snake was 22 inches long.
Wikipedia says that coral snakes are most notable for their red, yellow/white, and black colored banding. Several non-venomous species have similar coloration including the Scarlet Kingsnake and the Milk Snake. In some regions, the order of the bands distinguishes between the non-venomous mimics and the venomous coral snakes, inspiring some folk rhymes - “Red and yellow, kill a fellow; red and black, venom lack.” However, this only reliably applies to coral snakes in North America, the report said.
According to Internet reports, coral snakes use a pair of small fangs, which are fixed in the front of their top jaw, to deliver their venom.
Due to the time it takes for the venom to take effect, coral snakes have a tendency to hold on to a victim when biting, unlike vipers which have retractable fangs and tend to prefer to strike and let go immediately.
Coral snakes are not aggressive or prone to biting, however, and account for less than a single percent of the number of snake bites each year in the United States.
Most coral snake bites occur because of accidental handling of the snake while engaged in an activity like gardening, reports said.
Perez said he wants the neighborhood to be on the lookout because there could be more coral snakes in the area.
“I just wanted to at least make them aware,” Perez said. “I know that in Corpus Christi about two weeks ago, two people were bitten by coral snakes. And kids are always around here playing.”