The corn snake is named for the species' regular presence near grain stores, where it preys on mice and rats that eat harvested corn. The Oxford English Dictionary cites this usage as far back as 1675. Some sources maintain that the corn snake is so-named because the distinctive, nearly-checkered pattern of the snake's belly scales resembles the kernels of variegated corn. Regardless of the name's origin, the corn reference can be a useful mnemonic for identifying corn snakes.
Adult corn snakes have a body length of 61–182 centimetres (2.00–5.97 ft). In the wild, they usually live around 6–8 years, but in captivity can live to an age of 23 years or more. They can be distinguished from Copperhead snakes by their brighter colors, slender build and lack of heat-sensing pits.
Natural Habitat Edit
Wild corn snakes prefer habitats such as overgrown fields, forest openings, trees, palmetto flatwoods and abandoned or seldom-used buildings and farms, from sea level to as high as 6,000 feet. Typically, these snakes remain on the ground until the age of 4 months old but can ascend trees, cliffs and other elevated surfaces. They can be found in the southeastern United States ranging from New Jersey to the Florida Keys and as far west as Texas. In colder regions, snakes hibernate during winter. However, in the more temperate climate along the coast they shelter in rock crevices and logs during cold weather, and come out on warm days to soak up the heat of the sun. During cold weather, snakes are less active and therefore hunt less.
Corn snakes are relatively easy to breed. Although not necessary, they are usually put through a cooling (also known as brumation) period that takes 60–90 days. This is to get them ready for breeding and to tell them that its time to reproduce. Corns brumate at around 10 to 16 °C (50 to 61 °F) in a place where they can not be disturbed and with little sunlight.
Corn snakes usually breed shortly after the winter cooling. The male courts the female primarily with tactile and chemical cues, then everts one of his hemipenes, inserts it into the female, and ejaculates his sperm. If the female is ovulating, the eggs will be fertilized, and she will begin sequestering nutrients into the eggs, then secreting a shell.
Egg-laying occurs slightly more than a month after mating, with 12–24 eggs deposited into a warm, moist, hidden location. Once laid the adult snake abandons the eggs and does not return to them. The eggs are oblong with a leathery, flexible shell. Approximately 10 weeks after laying, the young snakes use a specialized scale called an egg tooth to slice slits in the egg shell, from which they emerge at about 5 inches in length.
Like all snakes, corn snakes are carnivorous, and in the wild they will eat every few days. While most corn snakes will seek and consume small rodents, such as the White-footed Mouse, they may also be found eating reptiles or amphibians, or climbing trees in order to find unguarded bird eggs.