Corn Snake

               Pantherophis guttatus 

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Reptilia

Order: Squamata

Suborder: Serpentes

Family: Colubridae

Genus: Pantherophis

Species: P. guttatus

Conservation Status: Corn snakes are widespread and highly adaptable animals. They are classified as least concern. 

Natural History: The Corn snake may very well be the most popular and commonly kept species of colubrid in the world. This species of snake is also very successful in its natural environment where it is widespread throughout much of the southeastern United States. These colubrid snakes belong to the genus Pantherophis which includes many similar and closely related species of ratsnakes. The corn snake is highly variable, naturally occurring in various coloration and pattern localities throughout its range. Corn snakes are mid-size colubrids, typically measuring between 36 and 60 inches as adults. The name 'Corn' snake has unknown origins but it is commonly believed to be a reference to the checkered pattern on the animals ventral belly scales, this pattern is similar to that of variegated corn kernels. Corn snakes can be found in a wide variety of habitats, from open fields to dense woodland, sandy dunes, wetlands, conifer forests, scrubby thicket and even in human settled suburban and rural areas. Like all snakes they avoid confrontation and will often spend the bulk of mid-day hidden under debris, rocks or vegetation. Though they are capable climbers, they prefer to remain closer to the ground and actively hunt in the mornings and evenings for lizards, small mammals, fledgling birds and eggs. Corn snakes are constrictors, they strike at their prey and then pull the animal into several tightening coils of its body. With every exhalation of the prey the corn snake tightens its coils, restricting the animals ability to inflate its lungs and  even collapsing blood vessels. After the prey animal is constricted it is swallowed whole. In colder more temperate regions of their range corn snakes brumate during the winter months, they will occasionally den with other species of snakes in deep rock crevices or fissures, caves, under exposed tree roots or any other secure location. In areas with more mild warmer weather they may only brumate during the coldest nights, emerging daily to bask. 

Care in Captivity: Corn snakes are a very popular species in the pet trade, both nationally and overseas. Their mild temperament, hardiness, ease of care, and beautiful variety of captive produced genetic mutations make them many hobbyists first snake. I maintain all my corns in thermostatically regulated rack tubs, but they fair equally well in secure aquariums or specialized reptile enclosures. A thermal gradient should be available at all times and my tubs have a warm side in the low to mid eighties and a cool side in the mid seventies. A secure hide box on each end will allow your animal to thermoregulate in a stress free environment. A variety of substrates are used by hobbyists, and all have their strengths and weaknesses. I use aspen shavings for my corns and spot clean the enclosure weekly. A constant source of clean water and a regular feeding schedule will keep these animals thriving in your care for a captive lifespan of up to 23 years. 

Captive Reproduction: Corn snakes are easily produced in captivity and this is another reason why they are so commonly kept. At approximately three years old (300 grams or more) females are ready to begin producing. Corn snakes will breed with no temperature manipulation, but for successful planned clutches it is still best to brumate the animals. In early November I begin fasting my animals for 12-14 days, and near the end of the fast I begin lowering the temperature on the thermostat daily. By mid-November they are ready to be placed in brumation tubs and moved to the cold room. This is an area that I allow to reach temperature lows of 45-50 degrees fahrenheit during the winter months of North Carolina. I provide deep substrate, a secure hide box and a bowl of water that is changed weekly. During brumation the snake enters a state of mild to extreme reduced metabolic activity. Movement is slowed, digestive functions cease, the heartbeat slows and caloric energy requirements are vastly reduced. During a good brumation that stretches from mid November to mid February most of my adult corn snakes only lose a few dozen grams of body weight. After approximately three months of brumation I move the animals back to their normal housing and begin raising the temperature daily until they have returned to pre-brumation conditions over the period of several days. The animals are then offered their first meal 5-7 days after emerging from the cold room. Females that I intend to breed that season are fed more often and I closely monitor their weight, generally 3-4 weeks after brumation they will have their first shed for the season and I begin pairing them with males. After several copulations are witnessed I cease introductions and resume a frequent feeding schedule. After approximately 30-40 days the females will deposit 10-30 eggs in a laying box. I use size appropriate rubbermaid food storage tubs and a access hole cut into the lid and filled with very slightly damp sphagnum moss. The eggs are removed for incubation in coarse vermiculite mixed with water at a 1:1 ratio by weight. You should be able to squeeze the vermiculite in your fist and it still mostly keep its form but no excess water should leak from it. I also add a small amount of very slightly damp sphagnum moss around the eggs and incubate at a temperature of 81-83 degrees. The eggs will begin to pip anywhere from 55-70 days of incubation, the neonates use a specialised scale on the rostrum called an egg tooth to cut several slits in the eggs leathery shell before emerging. 

 

Our Animals: I have always had a love and appreciation for corn snakes and keep and produce several different clutches and mutations every season. We have several animals and projects and are always working towards desirable and gorgeous color and pattern combinations.     

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