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Corn Snake

Elaphe guttata

  1. Not Evaluated
  2. Data Deficient
  3. Least Concern
  4. Near Threatened
  5. Vulnerable
  6. Endangered
  7. Critically Endangered
  8. Extinct in the Wild
  9. Extinct

About Us

Woburn Safari Park has two Corn Snakes, Harry and Jed; these colourful reptiles have great temperaments. They are inquisitive and quite active, and are always eager to explore their surroundings when being handled. Come and meet some of Woburn’s smaller reptiles in the ‘Disscovery Zone' (only open at set times throughout the day).

Distribution
Native to North America
Habitat
Wooded groves, rocky hillsides, meadowland, woodlots, barns, abandoned buildings.
Height
Length 61-182 cm
Weight
Approximately 1000 grams
Lifespan
15 - 20 years in captivity
Threats
Habitat loss and are often mistaken for venomous copperheads and are killed.

Behaviour

Corn Snakes in the wild mostly stay hidden and out of sight during the day seeking shelter beneath logs and rocks, they do come out on warm days to soak up the heat of the sun. At night they are more active, climbing trees and going underground into rodent burrows to hunt. When threatened, Corn Snakes will often strike repeatedly while vibrating their tail, this is sufficient to fool predators. 

Diet

Corn Snakes are non-venomous constrictors. Firstly, a Corn Snake will strike and bite their prey in order to obtain a firm grip, and then it quickly wraps one or more coils of its body around the victim. The snake then squeezes tightly; unable to expand their lungs to breathe, the prey suffocates. They feed on a variety of prey. Young hatchlings tend to feed on lizards and tree frogs, while adults feed on larger prey, such as mice, rats, birds and bats. It swallows the food whole, usually head first. However, Corn Snakes have also been observed swallowing small prey alive.

Physical features

These snakes come in a variety of patterns and colours depending on the geographic location and the age of the snake. They are usually orange, red/yellowish brown. The belly is checkered with white and black markings, resembling a piano keyboard or Indian corn. Other distinguishing characteristics include a spear-shaped blotch on top of the head, pointing toward the nose, black stripes on either side of the bottom of the tail and smooth scales.

Breeding behaviour

Corn Snakes usually reach sexual maturity at about 18-36 months and will breed from March to May. Courtship involves the male rubbing alongside the female constantly twitching, and the female, if receptive, will respond by lifting her tail resulting in their tails becoming entwined. Female Corn Snakes lay clutches of 10-20 eggs in rotting stumps, piles of decaying vegetation, or other locations with sufficient heat and humidity to incubate them. They deposit their eggs between late May and July and then abandon them. Incubation lasts 60 to 65 days. The young snakes use a specialised scale on their snout called an egg tooth to slice slits in the egg shell when they are hatching. Hatchlings are 25-38 cm long at birth and lack much of the bright coloration found on adults. There is no parental care after hatching. 

Threats and conservation

Corn Snakes are not listed as endangered. They are considered a species of special concern in Florida because they face habitat loss, they are also often mistaken for venomous copperheads and are killed. Corn Snakes are popular pets, and may be collected from the wild for the pet trade. They are also hunted for their skins to make tourist products or souvenirs which contribute to their decline.

Corn Snakes, like all snakes, play an important ecological role in their environment. They help maintain the balance of nature by being both predator and prey. Corn Snakes are among those snakes most often considered helpful to humans because they hunt rodents. These reptiles should be respected instead of feared or harassed. 

Fun facts

They are also sometimes called the red rat snake. 

When a snake flicks its tongue it is gathering scent particles from the air and bringing them to a special organ, called the Jacobson's organ, inside the mouth. It's a little like "tasting" the air to see what's nearby.