Reptiles - Corn Snake
Corn snakes are one of the most popular exotic pet snakes in the United States. They are generally very docile and easy to care for. They also do not grow to be that large, making it easier to keep them as a pet. Corn snakes also make a good pet for beginners, or those that do not have a lot of experience with snakes. They come in a wide variety of colors and patterns, making them very visually pleasing. Make sure that you are ready for what corn snake ownership entails, beginning with a safe and secure area of your home to keep it in because they are excellent escape artists. Corn snakes are most active at night and dawn. Make sure before purchasing a snake that they are legal in your state, as some may have laws against snake ownership.
Corn snakes are carnivores, meaning that they need to eat prey. In the wild this is easy as they are land dwellers and mainly eat rodents. If you are keeping a corn snake as a pet it is important to not be squeamish because you will have to provide them with mice to eat. Corn snakes should be fed dead mice, and as the snake grows, the amount of food grows. When a hatchling a corn snake feeds on small mice, and then the size of the mice it needs for food grows as the snake gets bigger. Young growing snakes require feedings twice a week, where as adults need to be fed one large size prey every seven to ten days. Your snake will also drink from a water dish that needs to be kept very clean. Snakes defecate in their drinking water which can lead to bacteria and disease. Your snake may often soak in the dish, particularly before shedding. You may notice that your snake’s appetite diminishes around the time of a shed, but do not be alarmed because this is normal. Be sure to adjust your snakes feeding at this time to prevent waste and rotting food.
Care and Handling for Your Pet
Corn snakes can be three to six feet upon adulthood. If taken care of properly including proper nutrition and housing, corn snakes can live to be 15 to 20 years old. It is imperative to provide your snake with a home that is similar to what they would find in the wild. When purchasing your snake make sure that it has been captive bred. Since some snakes are prone to signs of stress look for a snake that has clear eyes, no cuts, a clean vent and one that is alert and moving around.
It is important to make sure that your corn snake has had a chance to adapt to his new living habitat before your try to handle him. Once you have seen that your corn snake has settled, you can begin to become more familiar with him. Make sure not to startle the snake as you try to handle it, because it may think that you are a predator and try to attack and bite. Allow the snake to become comfortable with your scent so that it will recognize you in the future. Once you have established a relationship with your snake make sure that you maintain handling time every day otherwise your snake may revert to his more aggressive nature. If you do happen to get bit make sure to wash your hands thoroughly with a disinfectant to prevent infection.
Corn snakes do not have very elaborate needs for a terrarium or cage. It is very important that there is no way of your corn snake escaping from its enclosure. Make sure that your new snake’s habitat is no smaller than 20 gallons so that it has room to move around, with separate areas for shedding, nesting, eating and climbing. It is very important to keep the correct temperature for your corn snake. A healthy temperature gradient of 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit at all times. Remember that corn snakes are cold-blooded, meaning that they cannot regulate their body temperature like humans. If their tank is not at the right temperature they can become either too hot or cold and die.
In order to keep your corn snake happy in its new habitat you must make sure that it closely mimics what it would find in the wild. Make sure that the terrarium is at least 20 gallons so that they will have enough space so that they can separate it as they would in the wild. You will also need to use heat pads or an overhead incandescent light. There should be temperature gradient so that some areas are cool whereas others are warm. Having an area for your snake to bask is important for shedding. Keep in mind that corn snakes are from a temperate, and not a tropical, climate. Newspaper is the most commonly used substrate because it is easy to clean. If you are looking for something more aesthetically pleasing some people use aspen chips, pine bark chips and AstroTurf. Snakes will also require a hide box that is just large enough for your snake to curl up in. There should also be plants with many branches so that your snake can climb, bask and burrow. You will also require a place in your home to keep your snake’s prey (dead mice). Many pet stores sell scented containers to keep in your garage or basement to prevent odor.
Corn Snakes make a great first pet, especially for those wanting to learn more about snakes. Since the corn snake is so easy to care for they can easily become a great pet for those who travel or work shift work as they do not require constant attention. If you think a corn snake would make a good pet for you, talk it over with your local pet store customer service representative who can educate you further.