Pantherophis Guttatus – Corn Snake

Pantherophis Guttatus - Corn Snake information

The corn snake, Pantherophis guttatus, is a non-venomous snake found throughout the Southeastern United States. Due to its poweful orange colors and docile nature, it is a popular pet snake. The corn snake belongs to the family of the rat snakes and is commonly also called the red rat snake.

Size

Corn snakes reach a body length of 120 cm to 150 cm, in exceptional cases also over 180 cm (the described record is 189 cm [1]). The Corn Snake thus belongs to the medium-sized vipers within the genus Pantherophis. The weight of an adult corn snake can vary considerably depending on season and nutritional status and ranges from 200 g in young, sexually mature animals to over 800 g in very large and well nourished individuals.

Description

The corn snake usually has a deep orange or reddish-brown base color. It has several darker orange or brown blotches surrounded in black along its body. Often, the darker spots seem to go around the entire body. Therefore, the harmless corn snake is often confused with the venomous copperhead snake or the broad-banded copperhead.

Corn Snake orange brown snake with darker blotches southeastern united states
Other than the copperhead, the corn snake has round pupils, no heat-sensing pits and a stronger orange color. This photo shows a corn snake found in Alabama

However, copperhead snakes have various brown tones while the corn snake is usually a relatively strong orange. Also, the corn snake has round pupils, no heat sensing pits and generally a shinier appearance than the copperhead. A definitive way to identifying a corn snake is a look at their belly. The ventral side of a corn snake usually shows a black and white chessboard pattern.

dorsal side of a corn snake black and white pattern
The black and white pattern on the belly of the corn snake. Photo: Mike Finn

Due to its docile nature, the corn snake is a popular pet snake and has been interbred with various other species. Therefore, numerous variations regarding colors and patterns exist.

Diet an Habitat

Due to its large distribution area, the corn snake inhabits a wide variety of habitats. Its habitat reaches from habitats at sea level up to higher altitudes of over 2,500 feet (750 m). In the different zones of its distribution area, the corn snake lives in humid forests, bushlands, grasslands as well as in wetlands.

As a crepuscular and nocturnal lurker-hunter, the corn-snake preys on a wide range of animals. Its diet consists mainly of small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds. Corn snakes are also great climbers and occasionally plunder bird’s nests and eat the eggs and squabs in them.

The corn snake does not use venom to kill its prey but uses constriction. It fixes its prey animal with its jaws and wraps its very muscular body several times around it. By increasing the pressure on the inner organs, the prey slowly soffocates. After a short rest, the prey is swallowed whole – usually head first.

Corn snake found in Florida
A corn snake found in Florida. Photo: Scott Beazley

Bite

The corn snake is a nonvenomous snake. It is a very docile snake and hesitant to bite, even if handled. This fact and the beautiful and strong colors make the corn snake a popular pet snake. The snake does not have the ability to cause any harm to humans or larger pets. Its constriction capabilities only have an effect on smaller prey.

Geographic range

The corn snake is native to the Southern and Eastern United States. It can be found in the following U.S. States: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey.

Scientific classification of Pantherophis guttatus

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Reptilia
  • Order: Squamata
  • Suborder: Serpentes
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Genus: Pantherophis
  • Species: Pantherophis guttatus

This species was formerly classified in the genus Elaphe as a subspecies of Elaphe guttata.

Pantherophis Guttatus – Corn Snake

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