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What is a Corn Snake?

By Alyssa Simon
Updated May 21, 2024
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A corn snake is a non-poisonous snake native to North America. It may be called a corn snake because its underside has a checked pattern that resembles corn kernels. These snakes are most plentiful in the southeastern part of the United States. They can often be found in the woods, where they hunt rodents, their choice of prey. They are also known to eat birds and bats.

The corn snake has two accepted scientific names. One is elaphe guttatus. Gutta is the Latin word for spotted and refers to the patterns on the snake's back, and elaphe is a Greek word for a spotted dear. The other scientific name is pantherophis guttatus. It is also commonly known as a red rat snake, pine snake and mouse snake, among other names.

Corn snakes are among the most popular snake species sold as pets. They may be bred in captivity or captured in the wild. These snakes are not presently considered to be an endangered species. They do face danger when mistaken by people for poisonous copperhead snakes. Corn snakes, like other non-poisonous snakes, may be identified by their round eyes and head.

A pet snake can live for more than 20 years. Its life in the wild is considerably shorter. They may be eaten by hawks or eagles, foxes and coyotes. This snake kills its prey by coiling its body around its victim to suffocate it. Then it will swallow it whole, usually head first.

A corn snake's coloring varies. It typically ranges from orange to brown-tinged yellow. It will also have a pattern of red markings outlined in black along its back. An adult snake is often more colorful than a young one.

Corn snakes typically range from 2 to 5 feet (0.61-1.5 meters). They are able to climb trees, but spend most of the time on the ground. This snake will usually hide from the sun and predators under rocks or logs. These snakes have also been known to enter abandoned buildings in search of rodents.

The mating season for these snakes is in the spring and early summer. The gestation period, or time span between breeding and laying eggs, is typically 60 days. The snakes lay eggs under tree stumps or other rotting vegetation. This is to ensure that there is enough warmth to incubate the eggs before they hatch. Corn snakes can lay ten to 30 eggs at a time.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Corn Snake?

A Corn Snake, scientifically known as Pantherophis guttatus, is a North American species of rat snake. They are non-venomous and are known for their docile nature, making them popular pets. They exhibit a distinctive 'checkerboard' pattern on their belly, reminiscent of maize, which is how they got their name. Corn Snakes are skilled climbers and hunters, primarily preying on rodents.

Where can Corn Snakes be found in the wild?

Corn Snakes are native to the southeastern United States. They thrive in a variety of habitats, including overgrown fields, forest openings, trees, abandoned or seldom-used buildings, and farms. Due to their adaptability, Corn Snakes can also be found in suburban areas, where they help control rodent populations.

How long do Corn Snakes live?

In the wild, Corn Snakes have a lifespan of around 6-8 years, but in captivity, with proper care, they can live much longer. According to experts, captive Corn Snakes can live for 15 to 20 years, with some individuals even reaching beyond 20 years of age due to the absence of predators and access to consistent food and medical care.

What do Corn Snakes eat?

Corn Snakes are carnivorous and primarily feed on small rodents like mice and rats. In the wild, they may also consume birds and their eggs, lizards, and insects. As constrictors, they subdue their prey by coiling around it and squeezing until it suffocates. In captivity, they are typically fed pre-killed or frozen-thawed rodents.

How can you tell if a Corn Snake is male or female?

Determining the sex of a Corn Snake can be challenging without technical knowledge. Generally, males have longer and thicker tails than females. The most accurate method is through a process called 'probing,' where a small rod is gently inserted into the cloaca to check for the presence of hemipenes, the male reproductive organs. This should be done by a veterinarian or an experienced herpetologist to prevent injury to the snake.

Are Corn Snakes good pets for beginners?

Yes, Corn Snakes are considered one of the best snake species for beginner reptile enthusiasts. They are known for their docile temperament, ease of care, and reluctance to bite, making them suitable for first-time snake owners. They require minimal maintenance compared to other pets, and their feeding and habitat needs are straightforward to meet with a little research and preparation.

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Discussion Comments

By backdraft — On Mar 05, 2012

My grandparents lived in Georgia and my sister and I used to go visit them every summer. They lived out in the country on a pretty big heavily wooded piece of land.

It was mostly great fun being at their house and playing in nature like that. But when I was 6 or 7 I saw a huge corn snake slither right by me in the woods and have been terrified of snakes ever since.

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