Corn snakes are one of the most popular snakes to be kept as pets. A good pet for beginning reptile hobbyists, the corn snake lacks fangs and is non-venomous. They are relatively small and have a gentle, docile nature, but are not shy and retiring. They are active feeders and are hardy to the point of tolerating a wide variety of environmental conditions, making them easy to maintain.
In the wild, corn snakes can be found throughout the south-eastern and central United States, from southern New Jersy to the Florida Keys and as far west as Kentucky and Louisiana, from sea level up to as high as 6,000 feet. Equally at home climbing or on the ground, corn snakes prefer habitats such as overgrown fields, forest openings, trees, pine barrens, rocky hillsides, seldom used or abandoned buildings, trash piles and farms.
Wild corn snakes are distinguished by having orange skin with black-bordered red blotches. Their red-orange coloring has also led the corn snake to be known as the "red rat snake." The name corn snake is believed to have originated from how the splotched pattern on its belly is similar to the checkered pattern of kernels of maize or Indian corn. Some, however, believe it is because they are often found in corn fields and corn cribs where they search for rodent prey.
Because the corn snake is one of the easiest snake species to keep and breed in captivity, it is one of the most available snakes in the pet trade today. Due to many generations of selective breeding, the domesticated corn snake comes in a wide variety of colors and patterns. Besides color morphs and pattern morphs, there are hybrid morphs available. However, as hybrid morphs are from two different species, these attractive snakes are usually sterile.
Hatchlings range in size from 9-14 inches, with adults capable of growing up to 5 feet or more in length. These slender snakes, however, average about 3.5 to 4.5 feet in length when fully grown.
The average life span of the corn snake is 10 years, although some have been documented to be 20+ years old.
When selecting a corn snake, look for a well-fleshed body, no visible cuts or abrasions, clear, alert eyes, tongue flicking, no signs of mites or ticks. The vent should be clean. The corn snake's skin should feel like finely tanned deerskin.
Corn snakes bred in captivity are recommended over wild caught snakes because they are generally parasite and disease free. Also, corn snakes are listed by the state of Florida as a Species of Special Concern because they face habitat loss and destruction in the lower Florida Keys and they are often mistaken for copperheads and killed. As a responsible pet owner, you will help reduce the damage to wild habitat done by collectors and catchers by discouraging wild snake sales.