Pantherophis guttatusRed corn snake

Geographic Range

Corn snakes may be found in the eastern United States from southern New Jersey south through Florida, west into Louisiana and parts of Kentucky. However, corn snakes are most abundant in Florida and the southeastern U.S.

Habitat

Corn snakes may be found in wooded groves, rocky hillsides, meadowlands, woodlots, barns, and abandoned buildings.

Physical Description

Corn snakes are slender with a length of 61-182 cm. They are usually orange or brownish-yellow, with large, black-edged red blotches down the middle of the back. On the belly there are alternating rows of black and white marks, resembling a checkerboard pattern. Considerable variation occurs in the coloration and patterns of individual snakes, depending on the age of the snake and the region of the country in which it is found. Hatchlings lack much of the bright coloration found on adults. Corn snakes are not venomous.

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Average mass
    900 g
    31.72 oz
    AnAge

Reproduction

The breeding season of corn snakes is from March to May. The snakes are oviparous, depositing a clutch of 10 to 30 eggs in late May to July. Eggs are laid in rotting stumps, piles of decaying vegetation or other similar locations where there is sufficient heat and humidity to incubate them. The eggs are not cared for by the adult snakes. Once laid, the gestation period of the eggs is 60-65 days at approximately 82 degrees F. The eggs then hatch sometime in July through September. Hatchlings are 25-38 cm long and mature in 18-36 months.

  • Average number of offspring
    12
    AnAge
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    600 days
    AnAge
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    Sex: male
    600 days
    AnAge

Lifespan/Longevity

The life span of the snakes is up to 23 years in captivity, but is generally much less in the wild.

  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    23 (high) years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    32.3 years
    AnAge

Behavior

Corn snakes are primarily nocturnal, but are often active in early evening. They readily climb trees and enter abandoned buildings in search of prey. However, they are very secretive and spend most of their time underground prowling through rodent burrows. They also often hide under loose bark and beneath logs, rocks, and other debris during the day. Not much is known about the reproductive behaviors of corn snakes.

Food Habits

Corn snakes do not usually feed every day. They generally feed every few days or so. Young hatchlings tend to feed on lizards and tree frogs, while adult feed on larger prey, such as mice, rats, birds, and bats. They are constrictors, meaning they will use their coils to suffocate their food before eating it. First a corn snake will bite the prey in order to obtain a firm grip, then it quickly wraps one or more coils of its body around the victim. The snake squeezes tightly until it suffocates the prey. Then it swallows the food whole, usually head first. However, corn snakes have also been observed swallowing small prey alive.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Corn snakes help to control rodent populations that may otherwise spread disease. They are also widely popular as pets. They are the most frequently bred snake species for pet purposes.

Conservation Status

Corn snakes are often mistaken for copperheads and sometimes killed because of this. Also, because of their docile temperament, they are often kept as pets. Sometimes they are captured in the wild to be sold as pets. However, there are many snake breeders, so wild capturing does not pose a serious threat to this species. Corn snakes are not an endangered species. However, they are listed by the state of Florida as a Species of Special Concern because they face habitat loss and destruction in the lower Florida Keys.

Other Comments

Corn snakes are also known as red rat snakes. The common name "corn snake" is believed to have originated from the fact that these snakes are commonly found in agricultural fields, such as corn fields, as they hunt for prey.

Contributors

Karen Resmer (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Nearctic

living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

heterothermic

having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5? N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

References

Anonymous. 1996. Animal Bytes: Red rat snake, Corn snake. Busch Gardens, Inc. http://www.bev.net/education/SeaWorld/animal_bytes/rat_snakeab.html