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Corn Snakes


Elaphe guttata guttata



General Information


The corn snake is an ideal beginnerís snake due to its size and care requirements. These gentle snakes received their scientific name based upon the texture of their skin, which is possibly the smoothest of any snake species, and is often compared to a tanned deer hide. A species of the ratsnake family, the corn snake is possibly one of the most commonly encountered pet snakes in the reptile trade. They can be bred easily and are available in a variety of color and pattern mutations. Because corn snakes are bred in such large numbers there is no reason to seek out a wild caught animal which could create a natural imbalance in the area from which they are taken. Found in the wild from New Jersey to Florida and reaching as far west as Louisiana. Relatives of these snakes are the Everglades ratsnakes, fox snakes, Texas ratsnakes, black ratsnakes, trans-Pecos ratsnakes and all others found in the Elaphe genus.

Size and Life span

Corn snakes begin their lives relatively small at roughly 6 to 8 inches long. They can grow to reach smaller adult size within 2 years and eventually can reach as much as 5 or 6 feet long. However, most corn snakes stay a pleasant 3 Ĺ to 4 Ĺ feet long at maturity. Corn snakes have been known to live up to 15 years in captivity. Breeding females may actually have a shorter life expectancy but it is not certain yet just how this affects them.

Requirements


Corn snakes thrive at temperatures ranging from about 75 to 85 degrees with 80 degrees being a good, safe range that allows small fluctuations in either direction. Temperatures that exceed 90 degrees for more than a couple of hours are extremely dangerous to the health and even the life of your corn snake. Nighttime temperatures can fall to around 70 degrees with no ill effects. (Corn snakes can basically be kept at room temperature in a warmer room in the house and away from direct flow of an air conditioner.

Caging can be done in many different ways ranging from plastic shoeboxes to escape-proof aquariums to custom cages. The part about it being escape-proof can not be stressed enough. Snakes are curious creatures that will try to find an escape route eventually. The last thing you want to be doing is searching for a snake in a house where they can literally hide anywhere and possibly even get outside.

The size should be appropriate for the individual snake being kept. 15 to 20 gallon aquariums are appropriate in size for an adult corn snake housed alone. Many breeders recommend that while corn snakes are not frequent eaters of their own kind, it has happened on rare occasion so they should not be kept together in order to avoid any chance of this tragedy. A hide box of some kind is a favorite resting location for corn snakes and should be kept in the cage at all times. This will help to keep the snake less stressed.

One of the most common questions is "What should I use on the bottom of the cage?" First, let us state the WRONG things to use, namely Cedar and sand. We recommend using paper towels, butcher paper, astroturf or even potting soil. Remember that you will be cleaning this regularly to remove waste and eliminate odor, so sometimes simpler is better. You can make the enclosure as decorative or simple as you want.

Feeding

In captivity, corn snakes should only be fed captive born/raised rodents. While they eat a variety of rodents, birds and lizards in the wild, using these to feed your captive born snake can cause parasites, which can endanger your snakes health and life. Newly hatched corn snakes feed readily on newborn, or pinky, mice. Adults can be fed adult mice to small rats. We have even used newborn rabbits to feed ours at times and they take these readily. While many baby corn snakes will only accept live food for the first meal or two, it is advised that pre-killed or thawed food items be offered. This serves 2 purposed; first to keep your movements from being associated with food and second, to eliminate the risk of your snake being bitten by a live rodent and becoming ill or even killed.
Feed your snake food items that are no more than twice as big around as your snake. While they can actually take slightly larger, it is not recommended in captivity and should never be needed as appropriately sized food can be obtained at most any pet store or ordered online from a number of suppliers. Your snake may refuse an occasional meal, often when it canít see prior to shedding. Donít force the issue, but rather remove the food item and try again in a few days.
Baby, or neonate, corn snakes can be fed as often as every 5 days. By the time they are 2 or 3 years old, it is recommended that you feed no more than once a week with smaller items or every 10 to 14 days with larger items. Captive snakes have a tendency to become obese due to lack of exercise and this can actually shorten the lifespan of your snake.

Breeding


Itís because corn snakes are so commonly and easily bred that they are one of the most common snakes in captivity today. They can reach sexual maturity in a quick time but it is recommended that they not be bred until they are at least 2 years of age. A winter cooling, or brumation, period is normally used which requires lowering the temperatures of the enclosure to approximately the mid-50 degree range for 8 to 12 weeks. Slowly bring the temperature back to their normal range and begin feeding them to establish good body weight and health. After 2 or 3 feedings and usually a shed by the female, place her into the maleís enclosure. (Some breeders suggest placing the females shed skin in with the male to see if he becomes excited which is an indicator that he is ready to breed.) Copulation can happen quickly or may take up to 3 days (if nothing has happened in this time, separate them and try again in a week.) Once the breeding is complete, separate them and wait for the eggs, which should be laid approximately 45 days later. The female will so through a pre-lay shed with eggs being dropped in a nesting box or other egg-laying medium 7 to 14 days later, normally 10 days.

The eggs can be incubated in most any sealed container provided that fresh air is allowed in regularly and frequently (3-5 days.) The most commonly used incubation medium is vermiculite that has been moistened so that if you squeeze it tightly between your fingers a drop of water is produced. At an incubation temp of 80 to 84 degrees, the eggs will hatch in approximately 50 to 60 days. After hatching, the babies will feed off of the egg nutrients in their stomach and shed once before they are ready for their first meal.

Mutations

The following is a list of known mutations that can be found singly or together:
Normal, amelanistic, anytheristic, snow, banded, blizzard, ghost, blood, caramel, butter, butterscotch, motley, zig zag, striped, candy cane, creamsicle, crimson, hypomelanistic, lavender, sunglow, pastel, locality specific and many more.

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