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This gallery is a collection of images of corn snakes illustrating aspects of their life, anatomy and behaviour rather than the many different morphs. If you are seeking images of all the morphs please go to Ian's Vivarium where there are many hundreds of images of corn snake morphs along with information on each.

All images © Simon McElroy

Corn snakes vary enormously in their size, colour and patternation. This image is of a "wild type" or "normal" which displays the characteristic dark orange saddles surrounded by black bands on a lighter ground colour. The eye has a brown iris and black pupil. The belly is white with black chequers. This specimen is an Okeetee regional variant distinguished by it's broad black bands around the saddles. This is Ellie, female captive-bred in 2008. She laid her first clutch in 2013 which produced half normal and half amelanistic hatchlings, so Ellie is heterozygous amelanistic. She's approximately 160cm long and a full grown adult.
This is a yearling normal corn snake. The pattern along the back is very different to Ellie (above) with much thinner black outlines and the saddles are joined leaving blotches along the back. This one has black chequers on it's belly which distinguishes it from a motley corn snake. The food item is a fluff (approximately 6 day-old mouse).
A close-up shows that each scale has a range of colours rather than the pattern being made up of individual single-coloured scales.

This is an amelanistic corn snake (it has no black pigment). Amelanism is lacking the genetic instruction that enables black pigment to be formed in the skin leaving combinations of yellow, red and white. The eye of amelanistic corn snakes has an orange-to-pink iris and a pink pupil.

This posture is a classic wrap; although the mouse was dead before offered, the corn snake has wrapped and constricted it. In their natural environment, corn snakes will tighten their wrap until the mouse stops breathing then eat it whole, most often head first.

This is an anerythristic corn snake (it has no red pigment). Anerythrism is lacking the genetic instruction that enables red pigment to be formed in the skin leaving combinations of yellow (pigment is xanthin), black and white.
This is the same amelanistic corn snake as above, though it's in the early stages of shedding (ecdysis) when the outer layer of skin separates from the new layer underneath making the snake turn cloudy or "blue". It will shed in 4-6 days.

This is a stripe corn snake laying her first few eggs of a clutch of 17. The white between the scales is skin which has stretched as she contracts her abdomen to squeeze the eggs towards her vent. Her normal hide has been replaced with a moss box which helps to prevent the eggs from dehydrating whilst she lays.

Corn snakes do not tend their young. After laying they will leave their clutch, ideally in a place warm and humid enough to enable the embryos to survive.

After approximately 60 days, the hatchlings cut the leathery shell. They often remain in the shell for a day or more before venturing out.

Under ideal conditions, the whole corn snake clutch will "pip" their eggs in just a few days. These three pipped at the same time.

These eggs have been incubated at 27-29 degrees C for 61 days. The egg box contains a layer of damp vermiculite on which the eggs sit, the same way up as they were laid. They are then covered with damp moss to maintain 100% humidity.

The liquid is albumen which supplies water to the embryo, protects it from infection and cushions it.

This is a Carolina or normal corn snake hatchling pipping. They are most adorable at this stage and easy to photograph as they remain still.

After a day or two, the young hatchling leaves the egg. In their natural environment they'd then go their separate ways, solitary for their entire life, other than for mating.

This hatchling is thinner than a pencil and approximately 15-20cm long. It will shed in 3-6 days as it grows. At this stage it is still digesting nutrition from the egg.

Its monotone colours belie the changes that take place over the next few months as the red pigment develops patterns in dark oranges, tan and browns

In captivity, hatchlings are usually fed just after their first shed. It's always incredible that something so small eats a pinkie (one day-old mouse) larger than it's head.

During the next few months the hatchling will grow rapidly and will change colour. Normal hatchlings are often almost black and white when they hatch; this one has just started to develop the orange and brown tones.

Some eggs don't make it. This one was laid after the healthy eggs. I've still no idea what happened, though I imagine that the process of disconnection from the mother may have been premature.

Mother was fine.

Female corn snakes can develop eggs without the attention of a male. If they are not fertilised they are laid as "slugs". Some mother corn snakes may lay a few slugs after laying a clutch of healthy eggs. Slugs like this one have the consistency and colour of hard, dry cheese. They can cause the mother to become egg bound.

Egg binding is quite common in corn snakes and has a number of causes. Most adult female corn snakes will deal with the problem in their own way, though it can take two or three weeks. It's important to ensure the snake gets exercise and remains hydrated before and during that time. I help mine along with a daily swim in warm water. It's not something to worry too much about in a healthy adult corn snake though a lot of the mother's nutritional reserves and energy has gone into laying so it's wise to keep a close eye on her and monitor progress.

Corn snakes are generally voracious feeders needing little encouragement to eat. This one's happily eating a fluff (aka fuzzy, 3-5 day-old mouse). As a general rule, a mouse that has a body (excluding fur) that is the same diameter as the widest part of the snake is ample, though corn snakes will eat food items that are larger. I suggest that the maximum size of food item for a captive corn snake is 1.5 times the girth of the snake at it's widest point.

Most of my adult snakes will do almost anything for a mouse. This mouse is about the same diameter as the snake though it looks bigger because it's furry and being squeezed in the middle.

This female stripe corn snake is especially active when she can smell food. Her tail is still holding on to her RUB and she's picked the mouse out of a feeding box 60cm lower on the floor. She ate it whilst hanging upside down then went back into her hide.

The quality of food items is important for your snake. There are many suppliers of frozen mice, some excellent, most good, some dodgy. If you order online, don't accept deliveries that arrive partially defrosted. There's no excuse for poor packaging. There are plenty of excellent suppliers.

An occasional variation in diet could be good for your corn snake. I use day-old chicks for my full-grown adults and chick thighs as snacks for yearlings. Some people feed occasional rat pinkies and fluffs, and even quail eggs!

This adult anery female is eating a medium mouse (approx 20g).

Those backward facing teeth are sharp. An adult corn snake can easily draw blood although the wound is a minor scratch. I highly recommend feeding with tweezers or forceps; never with fingers or in the hand, so that the snake will never associate fingers with food. A corn snake that has learned to strike at fingers is a minor nightmare and results in lack of trust between keeper and snake. A keeper lacking in trust and confidence is likely to handle it less, so both keeper and snake lose out.

It's worth washing hands before feeding and ensuring that you don't handle the mice. Corn snakes don't have particularly good eye site so if your hands and fingers smell of mice your snake may consider them to be worth eating.

Moving slowly and calmly is also recommended, not just at feeding time. Your snake will be more relaxed and calm if you are. If you slow down, chill, and calmly and gently handle your corn snakes you'll be rewarded with an exceptionally tolerant and trusting snake.

Here's my female stripe again. That tongue is her primary sensual organ as corn snakes have poor eye sight and hearing. She flicks it around to taste the air, then slides it back in, pressing each of the forks into the vomeronasal organ (aka Jacobson's organ). This organ has two ducts, one left, one right. The tongue has picked up minute molecular traces such as the scent of food in the air. The vomeronasal organ sends a message to the brain to enable the snake to know whether the prey is to the left or right.

You may notice that your snake may move their heads from left to right as they taste the air. This enhances their ability to distinguish the direction from which the scent is coming.

Captive corn snakes smell or taste their keeper. The more regularly you handle your snake the more familiar it will become with your scent. Assuming you handle your snakes respectfully and calmly, they will associate your scent with security and become more tolerant.

This is a female granite corn snake hatchling. She has always been especially tolerant of me. I use the word tolerant as I'm not sure that corn snakes like being handled. They are solitary creatures. Given any opportunity they'll ditch you for the nearest hideaway.
Corn snakes are very inquisitive. This one's trying to get through the mirror but that other snake won't budge. They are also exquisitely capable escape artists, and as they are crepuscular (preferring to come out at dawn and dusk) they prefer low light levels and this means they are pretty good at escaping whilst you're sleeping and hiding in dark places.

This is Ellie, my Okeetee corn snake, shedding. As an adult she sheds just two or three times a year, whereas hatchlings shed every three to four weeks, sometimes more often. Older snakes grow more slowly so shed less frequently.

Corn snakes also shed if the skin is damaged so frequent shedding may be a sign that something is not as it should be.

The corn snake has to rub it's skin off, starting with it's nose, so you may notice your snake rubbing it's nose on it's hide or branches when it's about to shed. To help my snakes shed, I use coconut hides for youngsters and put rough rocks in the vivariums of older snakes.

Once the skin has been peeled off the nose, the snake rubs against anything that it can to help peel the skin back along the body until it's free and shiny. A healthy shed leaves the skin in one piece. If your snake sheds in pieces it is most likely to be because the humidity is too low as this makes the skin crispy.

This is Sahara, my first snake. During ecdysis (shedding) she occasionally soaked in her water bowl. She didn't do this at other times so I think she had an inkling that she needed to get wet. I put boxes of damp moss or wet kitchen towel in vivariums whilst snakes are in their shed cycle to help keep the humidity high.

In this image her head is underwater and she stayed like that for 10-15 minutes until I dived in. I've heard since that corn snakes can stay underwater for up to 20 minutes.

I got this water bowl in a bundle with another snake. The green stuff in the bowl is algae which grows if the bowl is not disinfected every now and then. I now mostly use glazed ceramic casserole dishes which don't have surface pores and so don't allow residual algae or bacteria to re-grow as rapidly after cleaning.

A couple of years ago I was worried about one of my corn snakes as she'd been egg-bound for a couple of weeks. I took her to the vet to get a photo. This is what she looks like on the inside.

In this close-up you can see the outline of the eggs queuing to get out. She did well, and helped with a daily swim in warm water (28-30 degrees C) she took another two weeks to lay the nine unfertilised slugs that were still inside.

Occasionally you may need to seek the advice of a vet. There aren't many vets that specialise in corn snakes in the UK so do your research before you choose your vet otherwise you'll end up with a hefty bill and little benefit for your snake. Remember that the trip to the vet will be stressful for the snake, so it should be a last resort.

Snakes have been around for 60 million years (fortunately much smaller now than then) and during that time they have evolved very successfully (and are still evolving) so they tend to be robust and resilient to ailments, although poor husbandry can change this very rapidly.

This shot is a bit grizzly so look away now if you don't want to see it!

A while ago I was unfortunate enough to purchase an unwell corn snake, though I didn't know at the time. In this image the snake has died. There was nothing I could do. It had ingested substrate causing a blockage, which had put pressure on the aspen splinter which had then punctured it's intestinal wall causing bleeding and a leak of digestive fluid into the body cavity. It was not a pleasant end.

The substrate in this snakes mouth is not what caused the fatality but demonstrates that it's good practice to remove your corn snake from it's vivarium and place it in a separate container for feeding so that it can't ingest substrate. I use black canvas document storage boxes which means the snakes can feed in the dark. I have a motley ghost corn snake that doesn't like being watched or disturbed whilst feeding and takes ages, so I zip up the box and leave him to it for an hour or so.

In this image you can see the glottis or breathing tube on the floor of the mouth. This tube allows the snake to breath whilst it's eating.



That's all for now, thanks for viewing. If you have questions, please email Simon's Snakes