Corn Snake

STATUSLeast Concern

COMMON NAME (SCIENTIFIC NAME)Pantherophis guttata

DIETSmall mammals (especially mice and other rodents), birds, bird eggs, and other reptiles

RANGESouthern New Jersey and Pennsylvania south to Florida and west to Louisiana

HABITATWooded groves, rocky hillsides, meadows, fields and farms

Corn Snake

Status: Not yet evaluated

Description: The corn snake is a nocturnal, non-venomous reptile. Its name probably came from similarity of belly markings to the checkered patterns of kernels on Indian corn. They can range from 2ft-6ft in length and are usually red, yellow, and orange with red, red-orange, or red-brown blotches edged in black, dark spear point mark on top of head. They can live up to 22 years in captivity.

Corn snakes are primarily ground dwellers, but are able to climb trees.   They are primarily diurnal. Their belly is covered with scales called scutes that push them along. The belly scales curve upwards where they meet sides giving better traction on trees or cliffs.

They are ectothermic (cold-blooded), meaning that their body temperature is dependent on surrounding temperatures. They will bask in sun for temperature regulation, digestion and egg development.

Their forked tongue “smells” the air and then transmits this information to the Jacobsen’s organ located on the roof of the mouth. They grow rapidly early in life and young snakes shed 4 or more times per year during first 2 years of life. As adults, they shed only once or twice per year. The shed comes off from their nose to their tail inside out (like gloves or a sock). When a corn snake is opaque, or ready to shed, they have a cloudy, bluish appearance to their eyes caused by old skin and the lymph fluid secreted beneath it. They do very well in captivity making them very common as pets.

Habitat/Range: Found in Southern New Jersey and Pennsylvania south to Florida and west to Louisiana throughout wooded groves, rocky hillsides, meadows, fields and farms. Corn snakes are equally at home climbing or on the ground.

Diet in the wild: Carnivores (eat meat); small mammals (especially mice and other rodents), birds, bird eggs, and other reptiles

Diet in the zoo: Adult corn snake: 2 mice or chicks once a week

Predators: Juvenile snakes are prey for predatory birds, some mammals and other snakes. Their coloration is their form of protection. Humans are a main predator of adult snakes.

Life Cycle/ Social Structure: Breeding season usually lasts from March until May and then from May-July females lay a clutch of 10-30 eggs. Corn snakes are oviparous. The gestation period lasts about 60-65 days at 82 degrees F. Nest cites are mammal burrows, sawdust piles, logs and rotting stumps to make sure there is sufficient humidity. No care is given to the young by the adult snakes.

Life Span: 15-20 years in captivity

Interesting Facts:

  • Corn snakes are non venomous
  • The name corn snake is thought to have originated because the markings on the belly resembles the markings of Indian corn. Corn snakes are often found in corn fields.
  • Are docile and secretive, they spend most of their time underground looking for rodent Burrows

Conservation Messages: Corn snakes are important to our environment and our economy. Corn snakes provide essential rodent control so rodents do not destroy farmer’s crops.

In Florida the corn snake is listed as a species of concern because they are facing habitat loss and destruction. These snakes are often mistaken as copperheads and killed. They are also popular in the pet trade and they are sometimes caught in the wild for bets, but these snakes breed easy in captivity so many of the snake now found in pet store are from breeders.

What You Can Do: If you encounter one in the wild, the best course of action is to simply let them be.

Bibliography:
Mehrtens, John. 1987. Living Snakes of the World. Sterling Publishing, Co, New York, p. 84.
Stazco, Ray and Walls, Jerry. 1994. Rat Snakes. T. F.H. Publications, Neptune City, NJ.
Stidworthy, John. 1971. Snakes of the World, Grosset & Dunlap, Inc. New York, p. 69.