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Corn Snake

Appearance

As a reptile their body is covered in scales. In wild corn snakes these are normally coloured orange. Down their back are red saddle markings that are surrounded by a black line. Their belly is coloured white and black in a checkerboard pattern. Due to their popularity in captivity a number of colour morphs of this species have been bred. One of these is an albino corn snake.

Corn snakes are often confused with the venomous copperhead snakes and are then killed.

An average corn snake measures between 76 and 102cm (30-40in). The largest ever recoded was 1.8m (72in) long. On average they weigh 0.9kg (2lb).

Diet

Corn snakes are carnivores. Most of their diet is made up of small rodents, bats and birds with some lizards also being taken on occasion.

They are helpful to have near your home as they will reduce rodent numbers.

This species only needs to feed every few days. They are a constrictor species meaning they do not use venom to bring down their prey. First they bite a prey item and get a firm grip on it. They will then proceed to squeeze it until it suffocates. Once this is achieved they swallow it head first. On occasion small prey is taken alive.

Corn Snake

Scientific Name

Pantheropis guttatus

Conservation Status

Least Concern

Height

76-102cm (30-40in)

Weight

0.9kg (2lbs)

Lifespan

Average

12-18 years

Captive

Up to 23 years

Diet

Carnivorous

Range

North America is the home of the corn snake. Here they can be found throughout the southeastern United States.

Habitat

They will make their homes in overgrown fields, rocky hillsides, forest openings, woodlands, palmetto flatwoods and abandoned buildings.

Reproduction

Breeding takes place between March and May. Males will use tactile and chemical cues to attract a female. He may follow her for hours in an attempt to mate with her.

Following successful mating 10-30 eggs will be deposited into a rotting stump or pile of decaying vegetation. These are chosen as they will provide the heat needed to incubate the eggs.

Once she has deposited her eggs she is no longer associated with them. She will go off on her way.

60-65 days after they are laid the eggs will hatch. They break out using a specialized scale called the egg tooth which slices the egg shell open. At hatching they measure 25-38cm (10-15in) long. The colouration of each hatchling in a clutch may vary greatly.

Maturity is reached between 1.5 and 3 years old.

Behavior

Corn snakes are a diurnal species. While searching for prey they regularly take to the trees. Large portions of their time though is spent underground prowling through rodent burrows looking for prey. When not hunting they often take to hiding under loose bark and beneath logs, rocks and human debris.

Quick facts

This species is one of the world’s most commonly kept reptiles.

On occasion the corn snake is called the red rat snake.

More often than not it is believed that the way the checkered pattern of the snake’s belly resembles corn kernels was responsible for their name. In fact their presence near grain stores is the actual origin of this name.

Photo Credits

Public Domain Image

References

Echternacht, A. & Hammerson, G.A. 2016. Pantherophis guttatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T63863A71740603. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T63863A71740603.en. Downloaded on 25 April 2020.

Smithsonian's National Zoo. 2020. Corn Snake. [online] Available at: <https://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/corn-snake> [Accessed 25 April 2020].

Baltimore, T., 2020. Corn Snake | The Maryland Zoo. [online] The Maryland Zoo. Available at: <https://www.marylandzoo.org/animal/corn-snake/> [Accessed 25 April 2020].

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