CB19 Stripe Corn Snake – (Pantherophis guttatus)
Captive Bred UK.
Corn Snakes are by far the most popular pet snake. The species ranges across much of Central and Eastern North America, extending into North-Eastern Mexico. They prefer relatively open habitat such as forest openings, overgrown fields, non-intensive agricultural holdings and the like. Corn snakes are of moderate build and size and in nature they normally appear with a light orange background
colouration with a series of darker orange-brown blotches down the back. However, there is a good degree of variation seen. Colour forms established under captive conditions are varied and often dramatic, including those with deeply enhanced reds, those lacking red and orange pigmentation and striped forms to mention but a few.
As hatchlings corn snakes are about 12-15cm long, and will reach 120-180 cm as adults. Under optimal conditions corn snakes can reach sexual maturity by the age of 18-24 months or so, although 30-36 months is more commonplace. Longevity under captive conditions is variable but can often exceed 12-14 years with a number of records well past the 20 years.
Corn snakes are docile, easy to handle and rarely bite. Handling is best avoided for a couple of days following feeding in order to minimise the risks of regurgitation. Likewise, it is best to restrict handling of newly acquired specimens, especially young animals, until they have had one or two weeks to settle into their new home. Care should always be given to support the body of the snake whilst being handled.
In their wild state corn snakes are solitary animals and it is generally best to keep them separately in captivity. Ordinarily, corn snakes should only be kept together for the purpose of mating. Although corn snakes are not hyperactive the minimum vivarium size should ideally not be less than two-thirds the length of the snake. Hatchlings have a tendency to be stressed in larger enclosures and may not feed if kept in large vivariums. Hatchlings are best kept in small plastic tanks until they are established and feeding well, then increasing the enclosure size as the animal grows.
A variety of substrates can be used when housing corn snakes. Most of those marketed for reptiles are suitable choices provided they do not build-up undue humidity within the enclosure. Aspen bedding, Lignocel or Beech chips are all popular choices as are the various reptile carpets on the market. Spot cleaning should be undertaken daily with the removal of any stools and the entire vivarium thoroughly cleaned every 3-4 weeks. Rocks, branches or artificial plants in the vivarium will be of significant benefit in increasing the surface area over which the animals can move and also make the environment more interesting. At least one hide box is absolutely essential and can be in the form of a hollow section of cork bark, artificial hide, rocks, etc. suitable for the size of the animal. Although humidity should generally be kept relatively low, when the animal is preparing to shed it’s skin it will require a humid hide area. This can be created by spraying lightly under a hide or by providing a box of moistened moss into which the snake can climb. It is important that the accommodation used allows for good ventilation.
Corn snakes require the ability to thermo-regulate and therefore require a thermal gradient in their vivarium. At the cool end of the enclosure a temperature between 22-24C is appropriate whilst at the hot end it should be at or around 30C allowing the animal to choose it’s optimal temperature through the day. Temperatures at night can drop a few degrees with no ill effects and, indeed, is in all likelihood beneficial to the snake. The hot end of the vivarium is best heated by a heat mat, ceramic heater or spot bulb controlled with a good quality thermostat. Ceramic heaters or spot bulbs must always be guarded with a suitable guard to prevent burning. If a heat mat is used then it is essential that it is a maximum of 1/3 of the floor area of the tank and that the thermostat probe is positioned on the heat mat such that it is measuring the surface temperature. The heat mat must not be thermally blocked by using a layer of substrate that is too thick. PLEASE REFER TO THE MANUFACTURERS INSTRUCTIONS FOR FULL DETAILS. A winter cool down period for a period of 8-10 weeks is notessential for the health of corn snakes in captivity but can be undertaken and usually is in order to increase the possibility for successful reproduction. It is a good idea to use a couple of thermometers, one at each end of the vivarium to monitor the hot and cool areas of the enclosure to ensure that there is sufficient difference to allow the snake to thermo regulate.
Supplemental lighting is not required for corn snakes but will do no harm, provided good hideaways are provided. However, it is important for the snake to be able to maintain a day-night rhythm and lights should be switched off at night. There is now some evidence to suggest that corn snakes may benefit from low level UVB exposure.
Food & Water
Appropriately sized rodents are the mainstay of the captive corn snake’s diet. Hatchlings will take pinkie mice once every 4-6 days whilst adults will take full-sized mice, young rats, etc. every 7-14 days. All food offered should be thoroughly thawed from frozen. Ideally food should be offered from tongs and given outside the enclosure. It is better to offer slightly smaller prey size than unduly large as this will increase the risk of regurgitation. Food should not be offered during the skin shedding cycle. A water bowl should be provided and changed regularly especially if the corn snake defecates in it. The bowl should be heavy enough to minimise the possibility of spillage.