Scientific Name: Elaphe guttata.
The corn snake is a non-venomous species that ranges from 24 to 72 inches in length. A patterned snake, often confused for the venomous copperhead, corn snakes may have a base color of orange, brownish-yellow, or gray with a pattern of black-edged red blotches along the back. Their undersides are lighter, with alternating rows of black marks. Colorations and patterns vary depending on the age and region of the snake. It is said that the name “corn snake” originated because of the species’ tendency to reside near corn cribs, which were commonly home to the snake’s primary prey, rodents. It has also been noted that the name may refer to the resemblance of the pattern of the snake’s underside to Indian corn.
These snakes are found in the eastern part of the United States ranging from southern New Jersey to Florida, and west into Louisiana and parts of Kentucky. They are most abundant in the southeastern United States. Their habitat includes wooded groves, rocky hillsides, meadowlands, woodlots, barns, and abandoned buildings.
Corn snakes climb trees and enter abandoned buildings in search of prey. They are secretive and spend most of their time underground prowling through rodent burrows, feeding every few days. The young feed primarily on lizards and tree frogs, while adults feed on mice, rats, birds, and bats. They kill their prey by constricting: the snake first bites the prey in order to get a firm grip then quickly wraps one or more coils of its body around the victim. It squeezes tightly until the prey suffocates, then proceeds to swallow it whole, head first.
Breeding season for this species is from March to May. They deposit a clutch of 10 to 30 eggs in late May to July. Nest sites include rotting stumps, piles of decaying vegetation, or other locations where there is sufficient heat and humidity to incubate them. Adults do not care for the eggs. Gestation period is 60 to 65 days. Hatchlings are 10 to 15 inches long and mature in 18 to 36 months.
Corn snakes can live up to twenty-three years, and are considered to be useful in controlling rodent populations in the wild. In some areas they are called red rat snakes. Due to their relatively docile disposition and colorful pattern, they are popular for pets.