Corn Snake (Pantherophis guttatus)
Published: September 20, 2017
Last Updated: January 7, 2023
Corn snakes are a nonvenomous, semi-arboreal species of snake native to the southeastern United States, parts of Mexico, and the Cayman Islands. They are found in the temperate forest biome, preferring wooded groves, rocky hillsides, meadowland, as well as barns, woodlots, and even abandoned houses (The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles & Amphibians, 1979, p.604-605).
Corn snakes are long, slender snakes with oval heads and round pupils. Exact color and pattern depends on locality and morph, but generally, a wild-type (“normal”) corn snake will be orange or brownish-yellow with large, black-edged red or brown blotches down its back. There are two alternating rows of smaller blotches on each side. The belly often has a black and white checkered pattern.
When newly hatched, corn snakes can measure anywhere between 10-15” (25-38 cm), but they grow to be about 3-5’ (.9-1.5 m) as adults. As small as 2′ and as large as 6′ is possible. There is no significant size difference between the sexes (source).
Captive-bred corn snakes are easy to find, even in the United States. Thanks to these breeding efforts, corn snakes can be found in a wide variety of “morphs” — captive breeding with the intention of producing certain patterns and/or colors. Some well-known morphs include:
- Blood red
Corn snakes are crepuscular, which means that although they are active at night, their peak hours are around dawn and dusk. In the wild, these hours are spent hunting prey like small mammals, frogs, fish, and even birds on occasion. Because they don’t have hands to help them subdue prey, corn snakes use their teeth and powerful constricting muscles to squeeze prey until it passes out (a rather humane method, actually, and effective within seconds according to this study).
Because of their simple care requirements, docile but active personality, and exceptional hardiness, corn snakes can make excellent snakes for first-timers. Captive corn snakes usually reach adulthood around 1.5-2 years old, and with good care they can live long lives — 15-25 years. Some have lived as long as 30!
Fun Fact: Early European settlers encountered this species in their corn fields and corn cribs, concluding that it was eating their corn. The truth is that the snakes were actually doing those farmers a favor by eating the rodents that would otherwise be feasting on the corn, but the name “corn snake” stuck!
Due to the popularity of corn snakes as pets, there are LOTS of unwanted corn snakes in rescues and listed in classifieds in the USA. Whenever possible, we strongly urge you to consider adopting your new pet corn snake from your local classifieds or a legitimate reptile rescue rather than buying it from a pet store!