Description: A fairly large -- 76-122
cm (30 – 48 in) -- relatively slender snake that is orange, reddish brown, brown,
or gray with 27-40 squarish black-margined brown or reddish blotches. The belly
is checkered with white and black markings, resembling a piano keyboard or Indian
corn. Other distinguishing characteristics include a spear-shaped blotch on top
of the head, pointing toward the nose, black stripes on either side of the bottom
of the tail, smooth scales, and a stripe extending from the back of the eye past
the corner of the jaw. Corn snakes are often mistaken for venomous copperheads.
Copperheads, however, have hourglass-shaped (rather than square) blotches, and
are generally browner than corn snakes.
Range and Habitat: In North
America, Elaphe [Pantherophis] guttata is found from southern New Jersey
to Virginia, with their main range from North Carolina to the Flordia Keys and
west to eastern Louisiana and southern Tennessee. There is also a disjunct population
in Kentucky. Although found throughout our region, corn snakes are patchily distributed
in the Piedmont and mountains and are most common in the Coastal Plain. Corn snakes
are found in upland, terrestrial habitats that are relatively dry, exposed, and
have subterranean mammal burrows. They especially favor sandy pinewoods. This
species is relatively tolerant of human disturbance and can be found in suburban
and agricultural areas. They are often found around old buildings and barns and
often enter people's homes in search of rodents or hiding places.
Corn snakes spend most of their time underground or hidden under objects such
as logs, boards, or pieces of roofing tin. They climb well and young ones are
often found hiding under tree bark or climbing in brush. Corn snakes are active
both day and night, but become primarily nocturnal in the warm summer months.
They eat a variety of mammals, birds, and reptiles, and young snakes are particularly
fond of lizards. Corn snakes lay large clutches of oval eggs in the spring in
rotten logs or other warm, moist places.
Conservation Status: Corn snakes are common in our region
and are not protected throughout most of it. This species is protected
throughout the state of Georgia.
Account author: Alicia Hudson, University
of Georgia – edited by J.D. Willson
Juvenile corn snake
A distinctive feature of corn snakes is the black and white checkerboard
pattern of the belly.