Corn snakes (Elaphe guttata) make an excellent choice as a pet snake. Pet corn snakes are generally docile, relatively easy to care for, and do not get too large. They are excellent escape artists, however, so care must be taken when planning their housing.
Corn snakes do make a good choice for beginners since they are easy to handle and care for. However, they are also favorites with experienced keepers due to the vast array of beautiful colors and patterns selective breeding has produced. An excellent page with lots of photos of the different variations is Shawn Lockhart's Color and Pattern Variations of Corn Snakes.
Corn snakes are closely related to rat snakes (rat snakes also belong to the genus Elaphe). Sometimes corn snakes are also called red rat snakes, mainly the amelanistic (lacking brown or black coloration) variations. Corn snakes are native to the south eastern United States and are mainly land dwelling. They are active mainly at night or at dusk and dawn.
Pet Qualities and Considerations:
- Size: corn snakes reach a mature size of 3-5 feet (occasionally up to 6 feet)
- Life span: around 15-20 years, sometimes longer.
- Cost: the snakes are relatively inexpensive, but remember there is a significant cost to invest in the proper equipment.
- Feeding: snakes are carnivores, which means owners must be be prepared to provide prey (in this case mice) to feed the snake.
- Cages: corn snakes do not have elaborate housing needs, but must be in an escape-proof enclosure.
- Legal issues: be sure to check the legality of exotic pets in your area.
When choosing a snake, a captive bred specimen is the best choice and shouldn't be too difficult to find since corn snakes breed fairly readily in captivity. Look for a snake that is well fleshed with clear eyes, no cuts or scrapes, no signs of mites or ticks, a clean vent, and one that is alert and flicking its tongue.
Next: Care of Corn Snakes