Genus/species: Elaphe guttata
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
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.
They are fed mice, rats, and chicks.
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.
The life span of the snake is up to 23 years in captivity,
but is generally much less in the wild.
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
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.