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#115851 - 28 February 07 5:35 am - America/Chicago Fatal Snake Bite in Xaibe
Nappy Offline


Registered: 11 November 02
Posts: 905
Loc: Corozal
On Channel 7 News last night...

Xaibe Villager Killed by Coral Snake

A 31-year-old resident of Xaibe was killed yesterday when a coral snake bit him.

At 5:00 yesterday, Cirillo Novelo was walking in Xaibe Village near the church when a woman came out of her house shouting for help because she saw a snake in her yard. He want to help, but when he went after the snake, it bit him on the hand.

His family reports that he went home as usual and woke up at 10:00 having difficulty breathing. He was taken to the Corozal Hospital where he died at midnight. Coral snakes are considered among the most venomous in the world.


Very, very unfortunate. My wife says that there's some old saying that goes something like, "Black touch yellow, kill a fellow...", but she can't remember the rest of it (referring to the color markings on the snake of course). Can anyone fill in the blanks?


#115852 - 28 February 07 5:48 am - America/Chicago Re: Fatal Snake Bite in Xaibe
Nappy Offline


Registered: 11 November 02
Posts: 905
Loc: Corozal
OK, found something...

Coral Snake

A highly dangerous snake that is common in many areas but their habitats are secretive. Usually encountered in early morning and evening hours, coral snakes can be found in any environment.
Average length 24 inches, maximum length 47 inches

The first color (starting with the head) on the coral snake is black and the coral snake has red and yellow bands that touch.

Seeing a black head is not a 100% accurate method when determining whether or not a snake is a type of poisonous coral or a king snake, etc.

Remember the old saying: "red and yellow will kill a fellow." What this means is that RED AND YELLOW ARE NOT SEPARATED - the red and yellow bands touch. The California Mountain King Snake has a black head but does not have red and yellow bands that touch.

The venom of the Coral Snake is neurotoxic, paralyzing the nerves. Often handled with impunity by reckless persons. Usually hangs on while biting, injecting as much venom as possible. There is a high percentage of fatalities from the coral snake bite. Treatment should start as soon as possible.

About three species of coral snakes are found in the United States. All are small, brightly colored snakes. The venom is neurotoxic and attacks the nervous system. Coral snakes have small grooved fangs which are permanently erect. They usually hang on after biting. Coral snake antivenom is produced for these species in this country.

The Arizona Coral Snake (Micruroides) is found only in the Southwestern United States. The venom appears very toxic. The bites are very rare and there is no antivenom for this species.


#115853 - 28 February 07 6:16 am - America/Chicago Re: Fatal Snake Bite in Xaibe
hopefulist Online   content


Registered: 17 May 03
Posts: 2334
Loc: The Dalles, OR USA
So sad. The rhyme I learned was, "Red touch yellow can kill a fellow; red touch black, venom lack" since there are other snakes with a similar appearance and different color order.

#115854 - 28 February 07 8:16 am - America/Chicago Re: Fatal Snake Bite in Xaibe
Nappy Offline


Registered: 11 November 02
Posts: 905
Loc: Corozal
Obviously this guy wanted to help but his actions were not thought out well resulting in a tragic event.

I remember when I was taking my PADI certification many years ago, my instructor was an old commercial diver who had seen it all. The one thing he said that has stuck in my mind ever since was, "No matter what happens down there, you always have time to think". That piece of advice has served me well over the years, both on land and below the waves. It certainly would have applied in this unfortunate circumstance.


#115855 - 28 February 07 8:30 am - America/Chicago Re: Fatal Snake Bite in Xaibe
Carole K Offline


Registered: 01 November 05
Posts: 2023
Loc: USA, Belize, Canada
I wonder why the man who was bitten, or the lady he helped, didn't go to a bush doctah right there in Xaibe. There is one who claims all sorts of healing powers right in the village. Not saying the bush doctah is the best kind but treatment of that sort might have fended off the immediacy of the death.

#115856 - 28 February 07 8:33 am - America/Chicago Re: Fatal Snake Bite in Xaibe
MangoCreek Offline


Registered: 06 June 06
Posts: 523
Loc: Illinois
Thank you for this post, Nappy.

What is amazing to me about this incident is that coral snakes, while having some of the most toxic venom among snakes, are some of the least likely to harm someone. They're reclusive, rear-fanged snakes that are not especially aggressive and because of their anatomy do not easily bite even when they want to.

I saw a piece about a coral snake fatality in the US last year that claimed it was the first US coral snake fatality in 40 years!

This fellow was incredibly unlucky and must certainly have been bitten while handling this animal without adequate caution.

Many years ago, I found what I believe was a coral snake under a house in Big Creek. It was small and had the correct banding pattern, but the yellow part of the banding was blended with the red and not distinct. The herp people I asked about it were unsure if it was actually a coral snake.

I released it on the Southern Highway several miles north of Mango Creek.

#115857 - 28 February 07 9:00 am - America/Chicago Re: Fatal Snake Bite in Xaibe
GZboat Offline


Registered: 18 June 06
Posts: 2471
Loc: Tarpon Springs, Fl./Copper Ban...
Very sad indeed. The rhyme I learned was "Red on yellow, kill a fellow; red on black, friend to jack". If the red and yellow bands are adjacent, you are dealing with a coral snake; if there are black bands separating the red and yellow, you've got a kingsnake. Checking with the Belize Field Guides Reptiles illustrations confirms this. If not so clear, err to the side of caution. I too was curious about how this happened. Corals don't have "hypodermic" type fangs at all; they have grooved teeth that release the toxin. They actually have to chew on a victim for a while to get the poison to flow. It is a large part of why coral snake fatalities are so rare.

#115858 - 28 February 07 9:55 am - America/Chicago Re: Fatal Snake Bite in Xaibe
jstrawb760 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 17 July 06
Posts: 19
Loc: U.S.
Just to add my two cents... yes, the pattern of adjacent yellow and red bands holds true for the North American coral snakes (and the one in Belize,) but not for the 60 or so other species in tropical America. Some have no bands at all. The ones I'm familiar with in Florida are small secretive snakes, but are extremely dangerous. They will bite readily if restrained, and do have hollow fixed fangs at the front of the mouth and a potent neurotoxic venom. If picked-up, they often thrash about; handling one is like handling a live electrical wire. The safest way is to wear welder's gloves, if one must take the risk.

The unfortunate death in Xaibe is classic in terms of the delay of symptoms - sometimes up to 10-12 hours. Anyone bitten shouldn't wait for signs of envenomation, but should get to medical help as soon as possible. With treatment, almost all victims recover

#115859 - 28 February 07 11:34 am - America/Chicago Re: Fatal Snake Bite in Xaibe
Rod Allen Offline


Registered: 20 September 99
Posts: 485
Loc: Central Farm, Belize
My wife says "to hell with all that poetry....kill the bastards and don't worry about anything"!!!!

#115860 - 01 March 07 6:10 am - America/Chicago Re: Fatal Snake Bite in Xaibe
Norbert Offline

Registered: 18 December 04
Posts: 127
Loc: Belize
I don't want to minimize the tragedy of anyone dying but I don't want potential visitors to panic either. Here are some points to think about.

1. This is the first instance of snake bite death I've seen in the Belize news in the seven years I've lived here.

2. Mr. Novelo was trying to catch or kill the snake. It didn't initiate the attack.

3. Mr. Novelo first experienced symptoms about 5 hours after the bite. That would be enough time to get to a hospital or clinic (which have antivenom kits)from just about anywhere in Belize.


1 Don't ignore a snake bite anywhere in the world. If it bit you, it was almost surely venomous. A non-venomous snake won't bite since it would not be an effective defensive behavior.

2 For most of us, don't worry about black, red, yellow or any other colors - just back off anytime you see a snake in Belize. Let someone who really knows what they are doing handle any identificaion or capture.

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