Eastern Corn Snake (Red Rat Snake) Pantherophis guttatus  1

Family: Colubridae - Harmless Egg-Laying Snakes

Typical Adult Size: 30 to 48 inches

Eye Pupil: round

Dorsal Scales: weakly keeled

Anal Scale: divided

SC Range Map

Additional Images

Adult Corn Snakes are very colorful with reddish blotches with black outlines displayed on a background of gray, yellow, orange and/or tan. Their belly is boldly checkered in black on white. It is reported their name is due to the resemblance of this checkered pattern to "Indian Corn." I have also read they got their name from being found around corn fields and storage areas where rodents are plentiful. In the upcountry of South Carolina, the background dorsal coloration tends to be silver/gray and the markings darker red. In the lowcountry of South Carolina, the dorsal and marking colorations are more orange.

Juvenile Corn Snakes are strongly marked, showing the major markings of an adult but with duller colors. Overall they are not too dissimilar to Eastern Rat Snake juveniles.

Corn Snakes may be active during daylight, but they are very often encountered crossing roads on warm nights. They are not venomous, but may bite if handled carelessly. Corn Snakes are good climbers. Like other rat snakes, Corn Snakes are relatively slow moving and will most often freeze when first encountering danger. This reaction leads to many being killed on our roadways.

The Corn Snake was one of the very first snake species which my brother and I captured after we decided to become amateur herpetologists. I believe we were both pre-teens. We set out on our bikes along a dirt road with a "snake stick" and a pillow case. We passed right by it at first. It froze in the middle of the road between our two paths. As we passed, I caught sight of it out of the corner of my eye. Since then, I have tried to be more observant. We could have run over it!

Like many other snake species, Corn Snakes may occasionaly eat other snakes. Once, I caught a juvenile Corn Snake on a road at night. I placed it in a box with a Brown Snake of approximately equal size and continued searching for other snakes. About 30 minutes later I looked in the box to check on my night's collection. To my great surprise, the Corn Snake was eating the Brown Snake. After swallowing about three-fourths of the Brown Snake, the Corn Snake regurgitated the Brown Snake. I suspect that it found it had tackled more than it could swallow. Or, the movement of the truck and my opening the box may have disturbed it too much. The Brown Snake was covered in digestive fluids but otherwise unharmed.

Corn Snakes usually do well in captivity. Because of their beautiful colors, they are a favorite species of captive breeders and many color variations have been developed.

Additional Images:

young adult, Laurens County approx. length = 36 inches
juvenile, Laurens County approx. length = 12 inches
adult, belly Laurens County approx. length = 38 inches
adult, Laurens County approx. length = 32 inches
adult, Lexington County approx. length = 36 inches
immature, Okeetee colored approx. length = 24 inches
adult, Okeetee colored
unusual brown coloration
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June 26, 2010
Contact: South Carolina Reptiles and Amphibians


1   The scientific and common names for North American Rat Snakes have undergone major changes during the last few years. Rat Snakes, Corn Snakes, and Fox Snakes (not found in South Carolina) were previously placed in the genus Elaphe. This was the same genus used for European Rat Snakes. In recognition of the evolutionary distinction between New World and Old World Rat Snakes, the genus Pantherophis was proposed for the New World Rat Snakes. However, further studies revealed problems with separating the Rat Snakes from the Bull Snakes, genus Pituophis. To solve this difficulty, the former genus Elaphe was replaced by three new genuses: Scotophis for the former Elaphe obsoleta species (Rat Snakes); Pantherophis for the former Elaphe guttata species (Corn Snakes); and Mintonius for the former Elaphe vulpina species (Fox Snakes). These name changes have recently been incorporated to this website. Therefore, many prior images and references will still contain the older names with the genus Elaphe. Updates will be implemented gradually.
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