Corn Snake

P. guttatus

Last updated: March 26, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
Image Credit Kurit afshen/Shutterstock.com

Corn snakes are partly arboreal and are excellent climbers.

Corn Snake Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Reptilia
Order
Squamata
Family
Colubridae
Genus
Pantherophis
Scientific Name
P. guttatus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Corn Snake Conservation Status

Corn Snake Locations

Corn Snake Locations

Corn Snake Facts

Prey
Rats, mice, baby birds, eggs
Main Prey
Rats and mice
Name Of Young
Hatchling
Group Behavior
  • Solitary
Fun Fact
Corn snakes are partly arboreal and are excellent climbers.
Most Distinctive Feature
Shield pattern on their back, and
Other Name(s)
Red cornsnake, chicken snake, red rat snake, eastern corn snake.
Temperament
Relatively docile
Litter Size
10-30
Habitat
Forested areas, fields, swamps, hardwood hammocks, neighborhoods bordering habitat.
Predators
Birds of prey, other carnivores, some snakes, coyotes, cats.
Diet
Carnivore
Lifestyle
  • Diurnal
  • or Nocturnal Depending on Region and Season
Favorite Food
Rats and mice
Common Name
Corn snake, red rat snake, eastern red rat snake, Slowinski's rat snake, .
Number Of Species
2

Corn Snake Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Brown
  • Grey
  • Red
  • Beige
  • Light-Brown
Skin Type
Scales
Lifespan
15 years in captivity, less in the wild

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View all of the Corn Snake images!



Corn snakes are long and slender, and a few have exceeded 6 feet long.

They are members of the vast Colubridae family, which includes king snakes and other constrictors. Their bright colors and easy-going temperament make them popular in the pet industry. In the wild, they’re most common in Florida, but their range extends across the southwest U.S. into eastern Texas.

People sometimes mistake these harmless snakes for venomous copperhead snakes, but the worst they can do is release foul-smelling musk and bite you with tiny teeth.

They’re long and slender, with some reaching 6 feet. Officially, these are diurnal snakes, awake during the daytime hours; however, they are active whenever there’s prey to be had.

Amazing Facts About Corn Snakes

  • Their climbing ability is truly fantastic; their body is perfectly designed for it, and people find them in very odd places. Sometimes even wedging themselves into the groutlines in brick walls to achieve their goals.
  • Corn snakes are the most widely bred snake for pets; breaders have created dozens of morphs of different colors.
  • Even though they’re partly arboreal, they spend a lot of time underground, prowling through rodent burrows.

Read here to find out more amazing facts about corn snakes.

Where to Find Corn Snakes

You can find corn snakes throughout most of the southeastern United States. They live in pine woods, swamps, hardwood hammocks; they’ll also make themselves at home suburban areas that border favorable habitats.



They spend their waking hours hunting for small mammals, following them up trees, under houses, and into attics. Many people find that a corn snake (or another rat snake species) found its way into a garage corner, then sat there, rattling its tail, trying to discourage them from approaching.

During cooler weather, they find a safe, isolated place in which to hide until the weather warms. They breed in the spring between April and May and lay their eggs in decaying plant matter about 4-6 weeks after they breed. Hatchlings emerge a couple of months later and measure about 12 inches.

Corn Snake’s Scientific Name

Likely owing to its colorful pattern, the current genus name, Pantherophis, refers to panthers (panther) and snakes (ophis). These snakes (and many other rat snakes) used to be classified in the genus Elaphe. In the early 2000s, genetic research uncovered new information about rat snakes. Scientists discovered that rat snakes in the Americas are closely related to kingsnakes and moved many species into other genera. They resurrected Pantherophis for use with the North American rat snakes. Most of the North American rat snakes are in the genus Pantherophis now.

As far as their common name, some argue that the pattern on its belly inspired its name; after all, the cream-colored ground with darker orange, yellow, or red blotches certainly looks like Indian corn. However, the first known use of corn snake was recorded in 1676, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. This snake tends to hang around the granaries where they stored corn to hunt the mice and rats that ate the corn.

Types of Corn Snakes

Of the 50-plus rat snake species, three were once classified as P. guttata; the classic corn snake and two subspecies. However, the other two were reclassified as separate species; Slowinski’s corn snake (P. slowinskii ), and the great plains rat snake (P. emoryii). The classic red corn snake (P. guttata) has a wider range and inhabits areas from New Jersey and Delaware, south to Florida, sometimes extending to eastern Texas; however, it’s most common in Florida. Slowinski’s corn snake isn’t as common as the classic corn snake and only occurs in areas of Arkansas, Louisiana, and eastern Texas. The great plains rat snake occurs in the central part of the United States as far north as Nebraska.

Corn Snakes: Population and Conservation

According to the IUCN corn snakes aren’t endangered or vulnerable; however, they are the victim of mistaken identity and killed. Their color confuses people who believe them to be venomous copperhead snakes. The best way to avoid these unfortunate incidents is education and a solid understanding of how to identify venomous and non-venomous snakes. Other (less-dangerous) look likes include the northern mole kingsnake, southern mole kingsnake, and eastern rat snake.

They, like many other rat snake species, have adapted well to the presence of humans, and happily hunt the rats and mice that accompany civilization.

Identifying Corn Snakes: Appearance & Description

A corn snake is long and slender, sometimes approaching 6 feet in length. The average length is 3-4 feet, but the record length is 6 feet, 2 inches. It is red to orange with black-bordered orange, red, or brown, shield-shaped patterns on its back, matching round blotches on its side, and a spearpoint marking on its head. Its head is sort of turtle-shaped and its eyes often match its coloring and have round pupils. Juveniles begin life more brown-colored than their parents and develop a brighter pattern over time.

Their identification is pretty easy with just the head and body markings; however, people mistake them for venomous copperheads, which inhabit many of the same areas, and killed. Their coloration is similar enough that without taking an extra second it’s sometimes too late for the innocent corn snake.

Corn Snakes Pictures and Videos

Cornsnakes hatching
This is one of the most commonly bred pets.

Dan Olsen/Shutterstock.com

Two juvenile corn snakes
This species is one of the most popular pet snake species because they’re easy for beginners to handle.

Blue Dog Studio/Shutterstock.com

Classic corn snake on a white background
They might have gotten their name from the pattern on their belly scales that looks like maize.

Eric Isselee/Shutterstock.com

snake on the ground in leaf litter
Corn snakes sound like rattlesnakes when they rattle their tails in leaf litter.

Nathan A Shepard/Shutterstock.com

How Dangerous are Corn Snakes

Corn snakes aren’t dangerous at all, they can bite and release a horrible-smelling musk. However, they’re not venomous and don’t have fangs.

These snakes are far more likely to flee than fight, but if they get cornered they put on a good show. Their defensive behavior scares those who don’t know that it’s all a show! If you corner one of these snakes, it will coil up, form an S shape with its head and neck, and strike. It will rattle its tail, and in leaf litter, it sounds like a rattlesnake. It won’t hesitate to bite, but it’s really not aggressive, and the biting is a defense of last resort. This is a snake that’s easy to hand and calms down fairly quickly once you’re holding it.

Corn Snake Behavior and Humans

Corn snakes are adaptable and will inhabit wooded areas, woodpiles, meadows, old barns, and abandoned houses. Still, they’re relatively shy snakes and tend to avoid people whenever possible. They take full advantage of the habitats people create around buildings and in yards. If you see a corn snake cruising through your neighborhood, it’s because there are rodents somewhere. Leave it alone to do its job and move along – it will only stay if there is food.

These snakes need to eat every few days, so they’re always slithering about looking for their next meal. Corn snakes are diurnal, but spend a lot of time underground, prowling through rodent burrows. They also hide under leaf litter and old logs.

Corn snakes are constrictors; they grab hold of their prey and quickly coil around and suffocate it; however, they sometimes swallow smaller prey while it’s still alive.

Corn Snake Morphs

There are more than 800 recognized corn snake morphs in a variety of incredible colors and patterns. If you’re looking for corn snake morph ideas, make sure to read our ‘Complete Guide to Corn Snake Morphs.’ Whether you’re looking for an albino morph, ones with dark patterns, we have a complete analysis of the most popular morphs and their average costs.

View all 144 animals that start with C

About the Author

Gail is a musician, author, and artist with more ideas than time. She loves learning about the Earth and its animals; her upcoming book, Pebble Worms and Fast Walkers is filled with all the random bits that kids love! She lives in north Texas with her husband, twin sons, dogs, cat, and a ball python named Nagini.

Corn Snake FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are corn snakes venomous?

These are harmless, non-venomous snakes. They don’t have fangs or venom.

How do corn snakes hunt?

They are active hunters and often prowl through rodent burrows, under buildings, and in trees in search of food.

Are corn snakes aggressive?

Not at all. they try to put on a good show when cornered, but they would rather escape.

Where do corn snakes live?

They live across the southwestern United States, as far north as New Jersey, west to Texas, and south to Florida.

What do corn snakes eat?

Juveniles may eat lizards, but adults prefer warm-blooded prey, such as rats, mice, and birds.

How long do corn snakes live?

The average corn snake lifespan is 6-8 years in the wild. However, in captivity, they can live up to 23 years or more.

Sources
  1. Smithsonian National Zoo, Available here: https://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/corn-snake
  2. Reptile Database, Available here: https://reptile-database.reptarium.cz/
  3. Florida Museum, Available here: https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/florida-snake-id/snake/red-cornsnake/

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