What Do Corn Snakes Eat? 10 Foods in Their Diet

Written by Kyle Glatz
Updated: February 18, 2022
Image Credit Enrique Ramos/Shutterstock.com
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What Do Corn Snakes Eat
Corn snakes are strictly carnivorous and feed on rodents, lizards, birds, and more!

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Corn snakes are a common sight throughout the Southeastern United States. People often confuse corn snakes and copperheads due to their orange and red coloring, size, and shape. The truth is that corn snakes are mostly harmless to humans. In fact, when you look at what corn snakes eat, their presence is quite beneficial.

These snakes are found lingering in fields with tall vegetation, buildings, empty buildings, and forests. Like many snakes, they will run away if they detect a threat, like humans, but they are still a common sight.  

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The corn snake’s docile nature, gorgeous morphs, and large size make them a popular choice as pets, too. Whether you encounter one in the wild or plan to keep one at home, we’ll show you what corn snakes eat and the specific foods you can expect to find in a corn snakes’ diet.

What Foods Do Corn Snakes Eat?

close up of a corn snake
Corn snakes prefer to eat small mammals.

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Corn snakes eat rodents as their primary source of food. They are carnivores that prefer eating small mammals that have a low chance of hurting them while feeding. These reptiles are often found near places where mice have made nests, like homes or farms. Unfortunately, that brings them into contact with humans who do not appreciate the corn snakes’ need to feed.

Of course, these snakes have to add some variety to their diet. Some of the other staple foods that corn snakes eat include:

Corn snakes will enthusiastically hunt and eat all of these creatures. Unlike some other snakes, they have an aversion to eating insects.

However, it is important to realize that the snakes’ diet is limited by their size and the size of their prey. Young corn snakes might be too small to attack sizable rodents, for example.  

How Do Corn Snakes Hunt Prey?

corn snake wrapped around branch of tree
Corn snakes hunt prey during the day

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The reason that this reptile’s size matters when selecting prey is that the corn snake is not venomous. They cannot simply land a bite on an animal and wait for it to pass away. Instead, they are constrictors.

Corn snakes bite their prey and then wrap themselves around it. Once they have fully wrapped their body around their prey, the snake will slowly crush it to death before eating it.

Corn snakes are diurnal, so they are active mostly during the day. During that time, they search for prey using their incredible sense of smell that is bolstered by their Jacobson’s organ. This snake’s sense of smell makes up for its relatively poor sense of sight, allowing them to find meals almost entirely with that sense.  

What Do Corn Snakes Eat in the Wild?

corn snake in terrarium
Corn snakes can be found under logs

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When corn snakes live in the wild, they eat mice, rats, squirrels, and other small mammals. At least, those are their primary and most common prey. They will hunt their prey using the methods we’ve described above.

They are opportunistic carnivores, so they have a tendency to eat whatever it is they happen to find. Corn snakes will expand their typical food selection when they cannot find rodents. If food is scarce, corn snakes could turn on others of their kind and consume them, especially if they are smaller.

Adult corn snakes need to eat every 10-14 days while juveniles need to eat roughly once a week. Thus, snakes can spend a fair amount of their active time hunting, but they only need a successful hunt every week or so to keep themselves well-fed.

What to Feed Corn Snakes as a Pet

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Corn snakes make great docile pets

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Corn snakes are frequently kept as pets, and their eating habits are different when they’re in captivity, especially if you get a young corn snake. If you have a pet snake, here is the frequency with which you must feed corn snakes at various ages:

  • Hatchling- should be fed every 5-7 days
  • Juvenile- should be fed every 7 days
  • Adult- should be fed every 10-14 days

When you keep a corn snake as a pet, the most common food to feed them is mice, mimicking the food they tend to eat when hunting. The best practice for feeding your pet corn snake their meals is to use humanely killed frozen mice.

You can feed your snake live mice, but the problem is that these animals will fight back against your snake. Therefore, you have to consider two factors:

  1. Does your snake prefer live or frozen mice?
  2. Is your snake’s feeding response enthusiastic enough to overcome a mouse or rat without injury?

Also, you can’t feed your snake mice of the same size at every age. Food suppliers provide mice of many sizes, from pinkie mice for young snakes to jumbo mice for adults.

What Predators Eat Corn Snakes?

wild fox stalking prey
Foxes can hunt and kill corn snakes, especially the young

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Corn snakes are effective hunters, but they do have some predators to watch out for. The most common predators of these reptiles are:

Each of these animals will hunt and kill corn snakes if they share the same range. They will especially feed on the younger, smaller snakes that are less capable of using their constriction countermeasures.  

Unfortunately, these snakes are also frequently attacked by humans because they bear a strong resemblance to the copperhead snake. The copperhead is a venomous snake species that is responsible for most human bites each year. Upwards of 3,000 people are bitten by them each year, so many people kill corn snakes out of fear.

The better option would be to learn how to distinguish the snakes or to call professionals to relocate the snake instead of killing it right away.

The corn snake eats small mammals like mice, rats, and squirrels. Their keen sense of smell helps them find prey, and their constriction abilities make them very effective and careful predators. Although they look like copperheads, corn snakes are not venomous.

Although snakes can look scary to humans, corn snakes tend to stay out of the way and help reduce the population of disease-carrying pests. They are very beneficial to human communities.

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About the Author

I am a freelancer specializing in SEO content writing. I write in a variety of niches such as video games, animals, and managed service providers. I've been writing full-time since 2018, so I've been doing remote work before it was cool. When I'm not working, I can be found reading, trying to catch up on my tv show backlog, playing video games, and starting stories that I'll never finish.