The corn snake (Pantherophis guttatus) is a North American species of rat snake that subdues its small prey by constriction. It is found throughout the southeastern and central United States. Though superficially resembling the venomous copperhead and often killed as a result of this mistaken identity, corn snakes lack functional venom and are harmless and beneficial to humans by helping to control populations of wild rodent pests that damage crops and spread disease. Their docile nature, reluctance to bite, moderate adult size, attractive pattern, and comparatively simple care make them commonly kept pet snakes.
The corn snake is named for the species’ regular presence near grain stores, where it preys on mice and rats that eat harvested corn.Adult corn snakes have a body length of 61–182 cm (2.00–5.97 ft). In the wild, they usually live around six to eight years, but in captivity can live to an age of 23 years or more.
- Normal / Carolina / Wildtype corn snakes are orange with black lines around red-colored saddle markings going down their back and with black-and-white checkered bellies. Regional diversity is found in wild-caught corn snakes, the most popular being the Miami and Okeetee Phases. These are the most commonly seen corn snakes.
- Reverse Okeetee (selectively bred amelanistic) – An amelanistic Okeetee Phase corn snake, which has the normal black rings around the saddle marks replaced with wide white rings. Ideal specimens are high contrast snakes with light orange to yellow background and dark orange/red saddles. Note: Albino Okeetees are not locale-specific Okeetees—they are selectively bred amelanistics.
- Blood Red (selectively bred “diffused”) corn snakes carry a recessive trait (known as diffused) that eliminates the ventral checkered patterns. These originated from a somewhat unicolor Jacksonville, Florida and Gainesville, Florida strain of corn snake. Through selective breeding, an almost solid ground color has been produced. Hatchlings have a visible pattern that can fade as they mature into a solid orange-red to ash-red colored snake. The earlier Blood Red corn snakes tended to have large clutches of smaller than average eggs that produce hard-to-feed offspring, though this is no longer the case.
- Anerythristic (anerythristic type A, sometimes called “Black Albino”) corn snakes are the complement to amelanism. The inherited recessive mutation of lacking erythrin (red, yellow and orange) pigments produces a corn snake that is mostly black, gray and brown. When mature, many anerythristic type A corn snakes develop yellow on their neck regions, which is a result of the carotenoids in their diet.
- Charcoal corn snakes (sometimes known as anerythristic type B) can lack the yellow color pigment usually found in all corn snakes. They are a more muted contrast compared to Anerythristics.
- Ultramel is an intermediate appearance between Ultra and amel, which is the result of being heterozygous for Ultra and amel at the albino locus.
- Motley – A corn snake with a clear belly and an “inverted” spotting pattern, it may also appear as stripes or dashes.
- Striped – This morph also has a clear belly and a striping pattern. Unlike the Motley corn snake, the striped corn snake’s colors will not connect, but may sometimes break up and take on a “cubed” appearance. Cubes and spots on a striped corn snake are the same as the saddle color on a similar-looking normal corn snake, unlike Motley corn snakes. Striped is both allelic and recessive to Motley, so breeding a striped corn snake and a (homozygous) Motley corn snake will result in all-Motley corn snakes and then breeding the (heterozygous) Motley corn snake offspring will result in ¾ Motley corn snakes and ¼ striped corn snakes.
There are tens of thousands of possible compound morphs. Some of the most popular ones are listed here.
- Snow (amelanistic + Anerythristic) – As hatchlings, this color variation is composed of white and pink blotches. These corn snakes are predominantly white and tend to have yellow neck and throat regions when mature (due to carotenoid retention in their diet). Light blotches and background colors have subtle shades of beige, ivory, pink, green or yellow.
- Ghost (Hypomelanistic + Anerythristic type A) These corn snakes exhibit varying shades of grays and browns on a lighter background. These often create pastel colors in lavenders, pinks, oranges and tans.
- Butter (amelanistic + Caramel) – A two-tone yellow corn snake.
- Amber (Hypomelanistic + Caramel) These corn snakes have amber-colored markings on a light brown background.