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Corn Snake
corn snake
Corn snake, photographed near sunset at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Boynton Beach.
corn snake

Corn snakes, Pantherophis guttatus, get the name from their habit of hanging out in corn cribs. For them, it was like hanging out at a fast-food joint, the perfect place to grab a quick meal.

It's a fairly common snake, found throughout Florida, from the Panhandle to the Keys. It's found throughout the eastern United States from the Mississippi River to the Atlantic Coast as far north as New Jersey.

It doesn't eat corn, of course, but mice and rats do, and rodent is definitely on the corn snake's menu. Back in the day, farmers would store corn in structures called cribs, with slats that allowed air to circulate and dry their harvest for processing. The corn would attract mice and rats, which in turn, would attract the snakes. We're guessing between the two, farmers preferred the snakes' presence over the rodents'.

Corn snakes are harmless, i.e. they are non-venomous. They kill their prey by constriction. Also on their menu: frogs, lizards, birds and bird eggs.

Generally speaking, an adult corn snake is between two and four feet long, but can be smaller and can hit six feet. A variant found in the lower Florida Keys — from Bahia Honda southward — is smaller than corn snakes found elsewhere. The Keys variant, called the Keys corn snake or rosy ratsnake, is protected by state law. They have less of the black markings of other corn snakes and are paler overall.

Corn snakes are orange-brown, with orange, red or brown blotches that have a black border. They do vary in color, but they all have a V-shaped pattern on top of their heads.

corn snake

They are nocturnal animals, who will burrow into the ground or hide under rocks and logs to pass the daytime hours. At the same time, they are accomplished tree climbers, considered by some to be the best climbing snake in Florida (another reason why cribs were a perfect place for corn snakes to hang).

Corn snakes make their homes in a variety of habits, including pinelands, hammocks, swamps and fields. You might find one in your back yard, even. Loss of habitat because of development isn't a threat, but human activity is, specifically poaching and automobiles. Hurricanes also pose a threat because of storm surge and flooding. They breed in April through June, with females laying as many as two clutches with anywhere between three and 40 eggs each. They hatch between July and September.

Other names include eastern corn snake, chicken snake and red rat snake. It is a member of Colubridae, the largest snake family on the planet.

Photographs by David Sedore
corn snake
corn snake
corn snake
Unless otherwise stated, all photographs are property of the publishers and may not be used without their express permission.
The photographs on this page are property of the publishers, and may not be used without their permission.