The Corn Snakes (Elaphe guttata) are a species of Rat Snake ““ they are known for being somewhat smaller than other Rat Snake species. Their average length is about 4 feet long. They are found throughout south-eastern and central North America as well as parts of Mexico.
There are two subspecies of Corn Snake, however, one subspecies is not called a Corn Snake, but instead is called a Rat Snake:
- Common Corn Snake (Elaphe guttata guttata) is prevalent in the south-eastern United States and is distinguished by having orange skin with red blotches, the blotches having black borders. Also, four black or brown lengthwise stripes are found on some individuals.
- Emory’s Rat Snake (Elaphe guttata emoryi), which is sometimes called the Great Plains Rat Snake, is prevalent in both central North America and also parts of Mexico. Some have also been seen as far North as Northeastern United States. It is less colorful than the dominant subspecies. They are normally light gray or tan with dark gray blotches, sometimes with a hint of olive green. However, the Emory subspecies has a lot of yellow pigmentation in its genetics that have been monopolized by the pet trade. This subspecies is often stouter and larger and produces fewer eggs per clutch than its predominantly southeastern counterpart.
Corn Snakes, as with all Rat Snakes, have a diet primarily consisting of rodents, however, they are proficient climbers (arboreal in nature) and will scale trees in search of birds and bird eggs. Baby Corn snakes are known to eat small lizards as their first meals, and Carolina anoles are the preferred choice. Some individuals retain these dietary tendencies well into adulthood.
Corn Snakes as Pets
Corn Snakes are known for being ideal pets and are one of the most widely available snakes in the pet trade. This is due to the fact that Corn Snakes have a comparatively docile demeanor and are robust. There are many, many different colors and patterns morph to the point that one could literally own over 50 of them but no two individuals of the same morph strain. Some of the most common colors (other than the color found in the wild) are Albino or amelanistic, Anerytheristic, Snow, Hypomelanistic, Ghost, Calico, Bloodred, and Lavender. An intergrade has been created by breeding the Albino Corn Snake with the Emory’s Rat Snakes to make what people call a Creamsicle Corn Snake. Furthermore, the most common natural color pattern of Guttata Guttata is called “Okeetee” and a specific pattern found in Florida is referred to as the “Miami Phase.”
Corn snakes are good starter snakes for amateur herpetologists and may be commonly purchased as juveniles. They feed readily on “pinkie” mice and then larger “fuzzies” and adult mice as they grow. Some finicky eaters can be enticed to feed by rubbing an anole lizard on the food before offering it to the snakelet.
Note: The scientific name has recently been changed to Pantherophis guttatus, however, many people have yet to agree with the change and still call them by the name Elaphe guttata.