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Corn Snake

Taxonomy

Order: Squamata
Family: Colubridae
Genus/species: Elaphe guttata

Description:

Corn snakes are slender with a length of 24 to 72 inches (61 to 182 cm). They are usually orange or brownish-yellow, with large, black-edged red blotches down the middle of the back. On the belly 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 primarily diurnal. 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.

Distribution and Habitat:

Corn snakes are 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.

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

Diet in the Wild:

Corn snakes do not usually feed every day instead they feed every few days. Young hatchlings tend to feed on lizards and tree frogs, while adults feed on larger prey, such as mice, rats, birds, and bats. They are constrictors. First a corn snake bites 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.

Zoo Diet:

They are fed mice, rats, and chicks.

Reproduction:

The breeding season of corn snakes is from March to May. The snakes are oviparous, depositing a clutch of ten 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 adult snakes do not care for the eggs. Once laid, the gestation period of the eggs is 60 to 65 days at about 82° F. The eggs hatch sometime in July through September. Hatchlings are 10 to 15 inches (25 to 38 cm) long and mature in 18 to 36 months.

Life Span:

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

Status:

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. Corn snakes are often mistaken for copperheads and killed. They are also popular as pets. They are the most frequently bred snake species for pet purposes. However they are sometimes captured in the wild to be sold as pets. This does not seem to pose a serious threat to this species at this time.

Corn snakes help to control rodent populations that may otherwise spread disease.

Fun Facts:

The name corn snake is believed to have originated from the similarity of the markings on the belly to the checkered pattern of kernels of maize or Indian corn.

They are also sometimes called the red rat snake.

Source of Information:

All or part of this information was provided by the Animal Diversity Web and Museum of Zoology of the University of Michigan.
It appears here with their permission. The original author of this information was Karen Resmer.

For more information, including references, see the Animal Diversity Web account for this species, here:
http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/ site/ accounts/ information/ Elaphe_guttata.html.