Thecorn snakeis a non-venomous snake native to southeastern North America. It is often mistaken for the venomous copperhead, though it is actually harmless and beneficial to humans, as corn snakes help to keep rodent and pest populations in check. The common name of this snake is thought to refer to its frequent presence near corn and grain stores, where it helped farmers by preying on rats and mice.
Scientific & Common Names
Kingdom - Animalia
Phylum - Chordata
Class – Reptilia
Order – Squamata
Suborder – Serpentes
Family – Colubridae
Genus – Pantherophis
Species – P. guttatus
Common Name – Corn Snake, Great Plains Rat Snake (P. guttatus emoryi, sometimes considered its own species, P. emoryi)
Corn snakes are highly variable in their coloration, but they typically feature the same pattern of reddish blotches with dark borders against a base color of gray, tan, yellow or orange. The intensity of these red splotches can vary highly, though their colors are usually brighter than the copperheads they are often mistaken for. Corn snakes can reach almost six feet in length.
Corn snakes mate in cooler months of winter, and around a month later the female will lay between a dozen and two dozen eggs. After laying the eggs, the mother has no more contact with her offspring and they must fend for themselves upon hatching. Hatchlings use a modified scale called an “egg tooth” to help them pierce the shell and escape the egg.
Corn snakes are generally docile and hesitant to bite anything that they don’t intend to eat. They feed on small mammals, reptiles, and bird eggs. They eat typically every few days, and use constriction as their method of subduing prey, biting and then wrapping their coils around an animal until it suffocates.
Though non-venomous, corn snakes and other rat snakes are believed to have evolved from venomous ancestors.
Their overall calm and gentle demeanor has made them quite popular in the pet trade, where several color morphs and pattern variants have been selectively bred. They are relatively easy to care for and allow humans to handle them with little resistance, thus making them one of the more commonly encountered snakes in captivity.
Corn snakes are a species of Least Concern, and are not currently in any immediate danger of extinction. They are adaptable to a wide range of habitats and can even live near humans in unused or abandoned buildings.
One threat that faces these snakes is mistaken identity – they are often killed after being confused with the venomous copperhead snake, due to their similar coloration and pattern.
Peterson Field Guides: Reptiles and Amphibians Eastern/Central North America, Conant & Collins, 1991.
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