Corn Snake


04.24.2006 - The Corn Snake, Elaphe guttata guttata, is probably the 2nd most common snake that I find and remove here in Central Florida.  I consider it the prettiest snake that I deal with.  It has a beautiful red and orange pattern, and the belly is white with black keyboard markings, from which it gets its name (apparently the markings look like maize, although I'd have named this snake the piano snake on the basis of its belly). 

Many people associate brightly colored animals with poison, and it's true that many critters in nature that choose to stand out via their coloring are poisonous.  This is named aposematic coloration. The most common configuration amongst animals is camouflage, and is called cryptic coloration, with good reason, and so brightly colored critters, who stand out and are easily spotted by prey, generally want to stand out, to call attention to fact that if they do get attacked or eaten, it will be an unpleasant meal.   But not the Corn Snake, it's harmless.  However, I understand why so many people assume that it's a dangerous snake. 

As usual, I simply stroll up to it like the big brave man I am, and pick it up and give it a gentle caress.  The fact of the matter is that this snake is one of the most docile snakes in Florida.  I've only seen on bite once, and that was when the guy swung it in circles by its tail, and it retaliated.  I always treat snakes gently and respectfully, and they don't bite.  This snake is so pretty and docile, in fact, that it was one of the very first snakes to be kept in captivity, and its still one of the most popular pet snakes.

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The corn snake is a popular pet due to its docile nature. These snakes receive their names because of their frequency around corn cribs. Small rodents would sneak onto a farm to eat the corn and the corn snake would be waiting to eat the rodent. These snakes are nonvenomous and have an attractive pattern. They are found in both warm and temperate climates, preferring thick woods or overgrown areas of vegetation. In regions where the winters are cold, corn snakes will hibernate. Breeding takes place after a period of brumation and results in a dozen or so eggs. After ten weeks, the baby snakes use a special egg tooth to break their way through the outer shell. Like all reptiles, snake young are on their own immediately after hatching. Corn snakes can be particularly difficult to identify because of the wide range of colors and sizes they are found in. There are over thirty color variations, some adding to the mix with pattern variances as well. Corn snakes are also known as red rat snakes or just rat snakes. Unlike other snakes of its size, it uses constriction to weaken its prey prior to ingestion.

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Interestingly, corn snakes are named after Indian corn or maize kernels for the orange-brown patterns found on their slender bodies. Another story behind their name is that they were first found in the cornfields and they were named so.

Physical Appearance:

Corn snakes are attractive orange or yellow-brown snakes belonging to the rat snake family. The patterned brown or red blotches are outlined in black. On the bellies, there are distinctive white and black repetitive patterns. There are a variety of blotchy colorful patterns that you can find on corn snakes.


Also known as red rat snakes, they are approximately 2 to 6 ft. (25 to 72 inches) in length. While the hatchlings are between less than a foot to up to 1 ft. (10 to 15 inches) long.


They are commonly found in the eastern US between Florida and New Jersey, amidst Louisiana and some parts of Kentucky. Large populations of corn snakes are found on islands such as the Caribbean, Grand Cayman, as well as the US Virgin Islands. These snakes reside in meadows, rocky terrains, abandoned places, barns, hilly areas, wooden groves, and tropical hammocks. They are also commonly found around human residences because of the abundant presence of rats and mice.

Eating Preferences:

Corn snakes are not venomous so they are known as ‘constrictors'. They generally constrict their prey until it is suffocated and swallows it alive. As for food choices, they usually feed on rats, bats, frogs, mice, and birds. The young ones rely on lizard eggs.

Reproduction Cycle:

The corn snake has a breeding season from March to May. Later in May and July, the females lay eggs in a cluster of 10 to 30 in places with great humidity for incubation. The eggs finally hatch between July and September.


Corn snakes can live for over 23 years under human supervision, but it's usually less when in the wild (approximately 6 to 7 years).

Preying Habits:

Corn snakes mostly stay active during the daytime. They chase their prey down burrows, up trees, and into abandoned places. Being secretive, they try to hide inside the bark of trees.

Corn Snakes as Pets:

Corn snakes can make amazing pets as they are not venomous nor threatening to humans. They are among the popular exotic pets loved by reptile pet owners. They are docile in behavior.

Corn snakes can be your best predatory pet if you have rats and mice around the house. Be sure to select a captive-bred snake as a pet.

On the downside, corn snakes can be a carrier of diseases. Due to little research, it cannot be determined what hazards pet corn snakes can carry for their human owners.

Snake care and maintenance can be costly too. You need to handle the pet very gently and quite often so that it gets used to your touch. Snakes also need light and heat sources for breeding. All this can turn out to be very expensive.

Final Words:

Unfortunately, due to the lack of awareness, many people kill the rat snake species considering it to be venomous. This leads to unnecessary killings of this beautiful and docile snake.

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