The corn snake is a “red rat snake” from the genus Elaphe guttata guttata. It has recently been regrouped into the classification Pantheropis instead of Elaphe, but in many places is still listed as Elaphe.
It is an easily tamed snake that can be kept alone or in groups, available in a variety of colours and patterns, that grows from 3 to 6 feet in length, but remains a slender and light-weighted.
The wide variety of colours available along with it’s ease of care and friendly personality make it a very popular pet – one of the most popular exotic pets in captivity.
Corn snakes are bred in captivity in huge numbers across the world, and few are now taken from the wild, where they originate in the U.S.A.
The corn snake has a lifespan that is usually described as 15-20 years, however, the oldest corn snake recorded in captivity was over 32 years old. Of course, we have no idea how long they live in the wild as no extensive studies have been done into recording this data, but it is fairly safe to say your corn snake should be around for quite a while!
Corn Snake Care Sheet
Below is a detailed care guide on how to care for your corn snake the right way.
It is great fun to hold your Corn Snake while watching TV. They do like your body heat, and are generally very docile (easy going) animals. Try to not handle them for two days after feeding, and for three days after shipping. You can not handle your Corn Snake too little. They are perfectly happy to be left alone. Thus they make great pets. They are naturally curious.
Corn snake eat once a week. You can try and “turbo” feed them every three to five days if you wish to speed up their rate of growth. The idea would be to feed them every time they poop. We don’t recommend this. Some believe this may actually shorten their lifespan and lower their breeding performance. Once a week is fine. There are times when your snake will not eat: right before a shedding, if it senses it is about to brumate, if it is a male and is interested in breeding, or if it is not feeling well.
They eat live mice. Some can be trained to eat mice that have been frozen and thawed. Start them off with a “pinky” sized mouse (baby mouse). As the snake grows you can give it larger mice (fuzzies, hoppers and then adults). Their jaws are hinged and they can eat things quite large. If you feed your snake something too big, it will likely vomit (regurge) it back up. Do not feed it again until a week later and try something two sizes smaller than it is used to. If you are not careful, you can lose your snake if it repeatedly regurges it meals.
Do not allow two Corn Snake to feed at the same time in the same cage. They both could try to eat the same mouse. The bigger one would then continue eating and consume the smaller one, and both animals will perish. Corn Snake are not cannibalistic.
Mice come in four sizes. Depending on species of mice these can vary in size as well. Pinkies, have no fur. Fuzzies have fur but have not opened their eyes. Hoppers are sub adult and can be quite fast. Adults are fully grown mice. Both hoppers and adults should be stunned if they are presented as live mice to your snake. A mouse bite really hurts and can tear into a snakes skin. Never leave a live, alert adult mouse with alone with your snake. If the snake is not interested in eating, a mouse left in the cage over night can do a lot of damage to your pet.
Problem feeders can be a challenge. Try placing the snake and the mouse in a brown bag. First, poke holes in the bag for air, and then place the animals inside. Roll down the top of the bag about a third of the way and then paper clip the top so the snake can’t escape. Leave them like this overnight. The smaller the snake, then the smaller the bag should be. If you are feeding a snake mice that have been frozen/thawed. Make sure the mouse is fully thawed and at room temperature. If they won’t eat it, try offering a live mouse. If they still won’t eat the mouse, your snake may not be able to pick up the scent of the mouse. You may have to take a razor blade and split the head of the live pinkie mouse open to induce bleeding. Hopefully your breeder has not sold you such a problem eater. You can also wash the pinkie mouse, and then rub a lizard against its body to give it a lizard scent. Corn Snake in the wild eat baby lizards too.
Find a cage that is escape proof, with good ventilation. If you only have one animal, an aquarium can be a great cage. Go to your pet store and buy a screen lid with CLIPS to secure it. You can also get various background pictures, and neat hides. A hide is something the snake can get inside of to feel safe. We like the oak tree stump or oak log ones best. Also buy some Aspen Bedding to put in your cage. Do not use cedar, unless you wish to sterilize (make it unbreedable) your animal. We have used coconut chips and that was strange but fine. Coconut is dark brown and gives a totally different appearance than the Aspen Bedding which is yellowish-brown in color. Ask your local pet supplier before you buy any bedding for your Corn Snake to see if it is 100% not harmful! Clean your animals cage every week by scooping out any poop. If you let it dry out it is easier to deal with. Every 4 to 8 months change the Aspen Bedding completely, and wash the cage. The cage will also require a water dish. Most anything will do. The larger the better, because cornsnakes like to soak in their water dishes just prior to shedding.
Temperature is critical to reptiles since they can not regulate their own temperatures. Buy a flat heating element that is attached to a sheet of Plexiglas at your local pet store. Place the heater so that it is only under one side of your cage. Plug it in, and leave it alone. You might not need to use it in the summertime, depending on where you live. If it gets too cold the snake will likely regurge its meals. Corn Snake like the temperatures to always be in the 80’s. A simple light bulb in the area and a closed A/C vent can regulate temp too. Do not leave a lamp on right next to the cage for long periods of time, for the brightness of the light could become bothersome. Be sure to turn the light off at night, as close to sundown as possible. The idea is to mimic nature. You will likely want to purchase a good digital thermometer, that can tell you the daily highs and lows.
In nature corn snake have a semi hibernation period when it gets cooler outside. This prepares their bodies for breeding. Do not bother with this unless you plan on breeding your animals. If you live in Florida, you can simply put your animals on a porch (but out of direct sunlight so as not to bake your animal) or in the garage, and leave the window open. The idea is to keep the temperature in the 40’s to 60’s for 10 weeks or so. Breeders use A/C units to simulate winter and control their animals’ environment. Your animals will slow down, and not require any food during this period. They do not lose any weight and they are generally inactive. Try to limit the amount of light your animals get during this period. In nature they typically have hidden in dimly lit places, such as holes, rotted tree trunks, or under rocks. Once every couple of weeks check on their water. Generally try to leave them alone.
As reptiles grow they regularly need to shed their skin; either because their skin becomes too small and tight, or because it becomes worn out. The new skin is produced underneath the old one prior to shedding. Young snakes may shed more frequently than adult snakes, but in general the shedding process occurs several times a year. This is nothing to worry about as a keeper, but there are a few things you can do to help your snake through this process.
At the beginning of the process the corn snakes eyes turn milky blue and the overall appearance of the snake is somewhat diminished. Just prior to shedding the eyes clear up and the corn snake seeks a humid environment to soften the skin, this could even involve soaking in a water bowl. When the skin is soft enough to be removed, shedding will begin; the corn snake rolls the skin off its head and inverts it all the way down its body, until it finishes off its tail.
Up to two weeks before shedding all corn snakes stop feeding and will have no appetite until the skin has been removed. The whole process usually lasts little more than a week and so a feeding routine is rarely disturbed.