Corn snakes originate from the United States of America and are native to the central and south-east of North America. They are called corn snakes as they were frequently found hunting in the corn barns of the USA.
In the wild they are most commonly orange with black lines and red saddle markings down their back, but selective captive breeding has produced a variety of different colours. The range of corn snake colours found in captivity is now huge.
Pet corn snakes generally grow to be around 1.2 metres long and live between 12 to 15 years, but can live for as long as 20 years. It is important that you carefully consider the implications of becoming a corn snake owner before purchasing one — they are a long-term commitment.
Will you be able to provide enough space for a corn snake? They start out tiny but grow rapidly and will probably need three different vivariums during their lifetime in order to accommodate their size. An adult captive corn snake can grow up to 1.8 metres long and commonly reach lengths of 1.2 metres. Pam Mansfield, founder of the Exotic Pet Refuge in Market Deeping, Cambridgeshire, says: "We often receive snakes when owners are finding that they need to move their corn snake into the largest size of vivarium, and these can cost £250-£300 to buy."
It's important that prospective owners consider the space required for an adult corn snake's vivarium and have the budget available to upgrade.
Corn snakes are crepuscular, meaning that they are most active in the early morning and evening. They spend most of the daylight hours hiding and sleeping. Corn snakes are unlikely to be a very entertaining pet for children. They also require very gentle and careful handling so are not ideal pets for children to hold. The weight of the body should be supported while allowing the snake to constantly move around, using you as a support. They should never be gripped tightly as this can cause injury.
Can you provide a lifetime of care to a corn snake? They generally live for 12 to 15 years but can live for as long as 20 years. As an owner you'll need to consider carefully whether or not your circumstances are likely to change within your snake's lifetime, for example moving away to university. Will you or another family member be able to continue to care for your corn snake in this situation?
Have you considered all the costs involved in owning a corn snake? There is the expense of heating and lighting the vivarium, equipment, feeding and pet insurance premiums, plus veterinary fees in case of emergency. These will all need to be budgeted for in advance.
What about holidays? Do you have a knowledgeable friend or local specialist who will be able to care for your corn snake while you are on holiday? You will also need to consider the potential costs associated with this.