Congratulations on welcoming a snake to your family. We here at Four Seasons Animal Hospital want to help you with your new friend, starting with the basics…
Did you know that there are more than 2,700 species of snakes all found on every continent except Antarctica. They live in deserts, forests, oceans, streams, and lakes. Many snakes are ground dwellers, and some live underground. Others dwell in trees, and still others spend most of their time in water.
The corn snake is also known as the red rat snake. Corn snakes are found in woodland and forest regions of the southeastern and central United States as far west as Kentucky and Louisiana and as far south as Mexico. Pets may be wild-caught but most are captive bred and many color morphs are now available in the pet trade.
Color & Size
The ground color of the normal or wild type corn snake ranges from orange to gray. There are orange, brown, or reddish patterns with black borders on the back and sides. The belly is checkered black and white, and the underside of the tail is usually striped. There are also albinos and many color morphs produced in captivity. Adults reach 2.5-5 ft (0.8-1.5 m) in length.
Corn snakes may live up to 15-20 years in captivity.
Free-ranging corn snakes eat small mammals, birds, and eggs. In captivity they thrive on rats and mice. An active snake will happily eat every 10 days or so and should only be fed, killed prey.
As a reptile grows, its old skin become too tight and worn. When ready to shed you will noticed your snake’s eyes turn a milky blue over the course of several days, and the body color will start to dull and develop a whitish sheen. Once the eyes have cleared, your snake is ready to shed.
Corn snakes may be housed in pairs or trios year-round.
Cage Size & Design
At minimum, an adult corn snake should be housed in a 30-gallon (114-L) aquarium.
These snakes are good climbers that do best when some vertical space is provided. Branches collected from the wild will need to be debugged by soaking first in chlorine/water solution, then rinsed thoroughly, soaked in clean water, then left to dry in the sun. Provide visual security in the form of a hide box. No special lighting is required for corn snakes.
75-85°F (24-30°C) with a 10-15°F (2-5°C) drop at night. A winter cool-down or “brumation” is recommended for healthy specimens only and is required for successful breeding. Hot rocks should never be used; they fluctuate too much, and too many reptiles suffer severe ventral burns.
Humidity & Water
Provide a water bowl large enough for the snake to completely immerse its body, and heavy enough that the animal will not tip it over. Provide a humidity box” or a hiding place filled halfway with damp sphagnum moss. Place the container half on and half off the heat.
Corn snakes are relatively docile and rarely bite. When handling a snake, take care not to smell like snake food (i.e. rodents or rabbits) but washing your hands thoroughly before handling. Support the head, neck, and body.