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Thread: Corn Snake Care Sheet

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    Corn Snake Care Sheet

    Common Name: Corn Snake

    Scientific Name: Elaphe guttata guttata

    Latin Name: Pantherophis Guttatus Guttatus

    Description: Corns snakes are a relatively small snake in the Colubridae family. They come in a wide range of different morphs in a variety of colors, but normal (common) corn snakes are bright red to orange with black markings.

    Size: 3.5ft-5.5ft

    Life Span: Captive-bred pet corn snakes can live for 20 years or more.

    Natural Habitat: Pine forests, rocky areas, grasslands, around farms and grain stores. Corn snakes can often be found inside corn storage. They are known to feed on rodents that found in and around corn. This is where the name “corn snake” came from. They are terrestrial and live mainly on the ground, but they can climb trees to find prey. In captivity, corn snakes may climb on branches provided inside their enclosure.

    If you are interested in owning a corn snake, here are some things to consider:
    · Corn snakes can live for 20 years or more. Can you care for a pet snake for 20 years?
    · Are there places in your area where you can buy frozen mice?
    · Are you comfortable with frozen mice in your freezer?
    · Corn snakes are relatively inexpensive to keep, but can you afford the enclosure and equipment necessary for the initial setup of a snake habitat?
    · Corn snakes are solidary and cannot be kept together. It’s important to keep only one snake to an enclosure to avoid the danger of fighting, which could result in serious injury or death. Corn snakes have even been known to consume another snake if kept in the same enclosure even for a short period of time. If you need to transport multiple snakes, it’s important that you put each snake into its own container.
    · It’s better to buy a corn snake from a reputable breeder than from the local pet store. Generally you will get more information on the snake’s breeding, age and health history from a breeder than from a pet store. Make sure the snake you intend to purchase has a good record of feeding prior to purchase. It’s also good to get the snake’s shedding record if possible.
    · It’s a good idea to quarantine a new snake for 2 or 3 months if you already have snakes at home.

    Choosing a Corn Snake
    It’s a good idea to handle the snake you intend to buy before you purchase it. This will allow you to assess the snake’s activity level and temperament, although corn snakes are an extremely docile species. You should look for a corn snake that is alert, flicking its tongue and has eyes that are bright, clear and free from discharge. The snake should also be free of any discharge from the nose. The skin should be firm and there should be no retained shed remaining anywhere on the body. The vent should be clean and dry. Be sure the container provided to transport your snake home in is completely secure, or you can purchase a “kritter keeper” or a plastic container with a tight-fitting lid to take hour snake home in. If you use a plastic container remember to drill or punch a few holes into the container or lid for air.
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    Corn Snake Care
    Corn snakes are known for their calm temperament and they generally thrive in captivity if provided with a few basic necessities. The care of corn snakes is relatively easy once you have correctly set up and equipped an enclosure.

    Handling:
    Wash your hands with a good antibacterial soap before and after handling your snake. Once your corn snake has realized it’s not going to be eaten, it shouldn’t mind being handled occasionally. Although some snakes prefer not to be handled, they should become use to it. If you handle your corn snake at least 3 times per week you will help it to remain docile. Care should be taken to avoid excessive handling, or when allowing children handle your snake, especially while it’s very small, as snakes are more fragile while young.
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    Note: Avoid handling your snake for the first couple of days after a meal and when it is preparing to shed its skin.

    Enclosure:
    Most snakes do better with a reptile tank that opens in the front, with venting at the top. If you put a baby corn snake into an aquarium (fish tank), you will need to reach in from above the snake’s head in order to pick it up. Anything coming into the enclosure from the top will feel like a predator to a baby, it will feel as if it’s going to be eaten. This will make taming more difficult.

    A baby corn snake can live easily in an enclosure that has a floor space of 20”X10”, but will soon outgrow such a small enclosure. An adult will need an enclosure of at least 30”L X 12”W X 12”H, but 36”L X 18”W X 18”H is better.

    Corn snakes are excellent at escaping an enclosure that is not tightly closed. Make sure your enclosure has a tight-fitting lid that can be clamped or locked. Corn snakes are strong and can push off a loose-fitting lid. In a pinch, you can set a heavy object, such a brick, on top of the enclosure, but this should only be a temporary solution. It’s best to take this into account when planning out or purchasing your enclosure so that it doesn’t become an issue.
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    Note: You will need a separate container to temporarily house your snake while you clean its terrarium. A plastic tub with a tight-fitting lid should work, but be sure to drill a few holes in the lid for air. As your snake matures and grows larger, you may find you can just let it wander around the room while you clean the terrarium. However, for its safety, while your snake is young and still very small, it’s best to confine it in a safe place while you are busy cleaning.
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    Heating:
    The temperature inside the enclosure should be in the mid 70's with access to a basking area of 85 to 88 degrees to allow your corn snake to thermo-regulate. Nighttime temperature can be safely reduced to 75 degrees. Another option is to provide a “cool side” and a “warm side,” meaning that during the daytime, one end of the enclosure is at about 75 degrees, while the other end is at 85-88. This can be accomplished using a heat mat placed on one end of the enclosure and only covering one third to one half of the floor space, with a daytime only basking lamp over the same end of the enclosure. In this way, you can achieve 85-88 degrees on one end of the enclosure during the daytime, and have the temperature on that same end drop to 75 at night when the basking lamp goes off. This should effectively cause the cool end of the enclosure to remain at about 75 degrees during the day. If not, you may have to increase or reduce the size of your heat mat accordingly.
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    Humidity:
    Corn snakes do not require any special humidity, but misting now and then during shedding will help the snake shed its skin. Be careful not to make the substrate too wet as this could lead to a respiratory infection.

    Lighting:
    Corn snakes do not require any special lighting, but you can provide a basking lamp for daytime use that emits low levels of UVB.

    Substrate:
    Avoid using anything dusty or drying such as sand or cat litter. Newspaper has been used for years as floor covering in reptile enclosures, but the ink is known to be harmful to reptiles, so it is best avoided. Paper towels are fine as long as they are layered to make them more absorbent. Because corn snakes like to burrow, the best substrate is probably shredded aspen bedding. If you use shredded aspen it cannot be cleaned, so it will need to be replaced with fresh bedding when soiled, or you can scoop out any sections of bedding that are soiled. It’s important to remove soiled or wet bedding as soon as possible as wet or soiled substrate can become a breeding ground for bacteria, which could be harmful to the health of your corn snake. At least once a month, remove and replace all of the bedding if you are using shredded aspen. Change out paper towels regularly. At each substrate cleaning, disinfect the enclosure and dry it out completely before adding the new substrate. Recommended cleaning products: properly diluted F10SC, diluted Chlorhexidine gluconate 2% or diluted Chlorhexidine diacetate.
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    Coconut/Orchid Bark: some reptile breeders recommend these as a substrate for snakes. However, they are more appropriate for snakes with higher humidity requirements. They are too wet for corn snakes and can cause a respiratory infection.

    Furnishings:
    You should provide your corn snake with one or two hides. These can be anything from store-bought “caves” to properly cleaned hollow logs or overturned plant pots. If you do not provide a hide your corn snake could become stresses, which will lead to an unhealthy snake. If you provide only one hide, place it so that it’s half on the warm side and half on the cool side of the enclosure. If possible, provide your corn snake with at least two hides. Properly cleaned branches can be provided for climbing. Corn snakes do not need to climb, but may appreciate the option to climb a branch now and then. Branches and rocks may also help with shedding. Do not use cedar, pine, redwood or eucalyptus branches, or any other branches from trees that are highly aromatic or oily. These can be unhealthy, or even toxic, to reptiles, especially those confined in closed spaces with limited ventilation. Any branches or rocks collected from nature will need to be debugged by soaking in a 3% bleach solution, rinsed until there is no longer any bleach smell and left to dry completely. Alternatively, you can bake branches or rocks in the oven at 250 degrees for an hour to kill parasites or bacteria.
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    You can provide other decorative cage accessories for the enrichment of your corn snake, just be certain they are safe and non-toxic. A background attached to the inside or outside back wall of the enclosure can make the enclosure more attractive. You can also decorate with fake plants, but make sure they are safe and will not come apart to be ingested. Corn snakes do not eat plants, but it never hurts to be careful.

    Moving around the accessories in your corn snake’s enclosure will give it a change of scenery and keep it from becoming bored. You will notice when you put your snake back into the enclosure after moving things around, it will begin to explore its new surroundings. It’s best to do this in the middle of a cleaning cycle, so that the enclosure will still smell the familiar.

    Water:
    Corn snakes need fresh water to drink, so their water should be changed daily. If the snake soils the water it should be dumped immediately and the water bowl disinfected. Try to size the bowl to the snake. For instance, for a baby use a bowl that is large enough to last a full day, but shallow enough for the snake to climb in and out of easily, as corn snakes will sometimes curl up in the water bowl, especially while shedding. As the snake grows the water bowl will need to be upgraded. The bowl should also be heavy enough so that it cannot be tipped over. It would be unsafe to have the bowl tipped over and the snake left without water.
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    Feeding:
    You will need a pair of tongs or hemostats to pick up the mouse you’re going to feed to your snake. Wash your hands if you’ve touched the mouse to remove the smell of food from your fingers. Do not feed your snake with your fingers as it could begin to associate your hand with food and may inadvertently bite you. Avoid picking up your snake for a couple of days after feeding as this could cause the snake to regurgitate its meal.
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    Corn Snakes feed on mice appropriate to the size of their mouth. They should be offered a mouse that is approximately the same width as one and a half times the size of the corn snakes head. Baby corn snakes start with “pinkie” mice and should be fed one every 5-7 days. As they grow, increase the size of the mouse (pinkie, fuzzy, hopper, adult). When your corn snake is fully grown, should be fed every 7 days. Very large snakes may require a small rat instead of a mouse.

    Hopefully, when you purchase your snake it has already been transitioned from live mice to frozen mice. If not, you may have to purchase a live pinkie mouse or two during the transition to frozen mice. Do not feed your snake live mice, except during the transition period if it’s absolutely necessary. Mice can bite and injure your snake. Frozen mice can be purchased at most pet supply stores. To thaw a mouse, place it in water that is room temperature for 10-15 minutes. Once the mouse is thawed, place it in warm water for a minute to heat it to a more normal temperature. Wash your hands, so they will not smell like food to your snake. You can use your tongs to pick up the mouse, dry it on a paper towel, and then offer it to your snake. It may be helpful to wiggle the mouse a bit to get your snake’s attention. Once your corn snake has taken and consumed its food, remember not to handle it for a couple of days.

    Shedding:
    All snakes shed their skin periodically during their life time. Babies will shed more frequently than adults, but generally the process happens several times per year. There are a couple of things you can do to help your corn snake during this process.

    Before a snake begins to shed, its colors will become dull as the outer layer of skin loosens and prepares to come off. Your snake will also become less active and the eyes will change to a cloudy, blue-grey color. Your snake may not want to eat and may prefer not to be handled during the process of shedding. A snake may also become more defensive as its vision will be slightly obscured while the membrane covering the eyes (the eye caps) are loosening and preparing to shed.
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    You can help by slightly raising the humidity inside your snake’s enclosure to help loosen its skin. This can be accomplished by placing a larger water bowl inside the enclosure. Your snake may soak in the water bowl more while preparing to shed. You can mist the inside of the enclosure to help with humidity, but be careful not to soak the bedding. This can cause mold and respiratory problems. Another option is to place a “humidity box” inside the enclosure. A humidity box is made by placing damp sphagnum moss inside a small container with holes drilled or punched into the top. Your snake may go inside the humidity box. If the moss inside the box begins to dry, just wet it again and place it back inside your snake's terrarium.
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    When your snake actually begins to shed, it will begin to rub its head on rocks, branches or other enclosure furnishings. Once the skin around the snake’s head is free, it will continue to crawl out of the old skin layer by rolling the skin inside out as it moves around in the enclosure. Once your corn snake has successfully shed remove the old skin along with any feces that have been produced during the process. Check carefully to make sure the eye caps and tail end have been shed. If any patches of skin remain, bathe your snake to help loosen them and remove them with a warm towel or a pair of tweezers. Retained patches of skin can cause problems for the skin beneath it, so it’s important to make sure the entire layer of old skin has been shed completely.

    Egg-Laying:
    In rare cases, female snakes may lay eggs without having mated with a male. These eggs are called “slugs” as they are unfertilized. If you suspect your snake is gravid (carrying eggs), and unless you are experienced in diagnosing a female snake as gravid, you should have it checked by a reptile vet. Gravid female snakes will need to be fed more and have a nest box set up so that she will have a place to lay her eggs. A next box can be made by cutting a hole in the lid of a plastic tub that is large enough for your snake to fit inside. Add damp, not wet, vermiculite, sphagnum moss or compost. Remove and discard the eggs once they have been laid. Your snake will be tired and hungry, so plan on providing a meal when she’s finished.

    Sexing a Corn Snake
    There are two techniques that can be used to sex your corn snake, “popping” for babies and “probing” for older snakes. Both procedures should be handled only by a qualified reptile vet as your corn snake could be seriously injured if either procedure is not done correctly.
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    Common Health Problems
    Corn snakes are hardy and don’t normally have many health problems. However there are a few things to be aware of just in case. For anything not listed below, or for any serious medical problem, please take your corn snake to a qualified reptile veterinarian.

    Regurgitation:
    If your snake regurgitates a meal, it is not necessarily due to illness. However, regurgitation can be a symptom of a digestive problem, related to an illness or due to stress. If your corn snake does regurgitate its meal monitor it closely for further symptoms. Sometimes this can happen if a snake is handled too soon after a meal or if the snake is fed a meal that is too large for its size. It’s best to let the snake settle down and rest for a week, then try feeding it again. If your corn snake repeatedly regurgitates its meal or begins to lose weight take it a reptile vet as soon as possible.

    Mites:
    Mites are common in snakes. Some are parthenogenetic, meaning they do not need to breed in order to reproduce. They require warmth and moderately high humidity to grow, so they can be a sign of poor sanitation or husbandry practices. They are suspected of transmitting blood-borne diseases, so finding mites on your corn snake should warrant a thorough examination by an experienced reptile vet to make sure it has not contracted any other disease.

    Mites can be black or red and can usually be found around the eyes, mouth, in skin folds and under scales.
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    If your snake has mites, it may be lethargic, unwilling to eat, be found constantly in the water dish or have patchy, retained shed. You may find one or more raised scales that are more easily felt by running your hand along the scales in the wrong direction (against the grain). Mites may be seen floating in the water dish or on your skin after you’ve handled your snake. An infected snake should be bathed immediately in warm water, and the enclosure and all of its contents should be completely cleaned and disinfected. Mites need substrate in which to lay their eggs, so add a layer of paper towels in place of substrate and keep the enclosure contents to a minimum. This will allow for easier viewing as you monitor your snake. Repeated bathing and cleaning may help, but it’s unlikely that you will completely eradicate a mite infestation without some sort of treatment. You can buy mite treatment products in reptile shops or online, or your vet may prescribe a very weak dose of Frontline if they feel it is necessary.

    Respiratory:
    People will sometimes say their snake has “respiratory.” This is not a disease, it is a symptom, and simply means that the snake has a bubbling nasal discharge, excess or foamy saliva, or is breathing from an open mouth. There are many diseases that can cause these same signs. Bacterial, viral or fungal lung infections, or lung mites, for example, can cause respiratory symptoms. These are all different and respond to different treatments options. A qualified vet should be consulted so a proper diagnosis can be made and an appropriate treatment plan put in place.

    Respiratory symptoms usually occur because of poor husbandry practices (low temperatures, high humidity) or unsanitary enclosure conditions. They can occur anywhere from the nostrils to the trachea to the lungs. As a result, the lungs can fill with fluid causing pneumonia.
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    Some respiratory symptoms can be passed from one snake to another, depending on the cause. Your snake could be wheezing, have excess saliva, discharge from the eyes or nasal discharge. The mouth may be held open or the snake may “posture” (prop itself in the enclosure, with the head and neck up, in an attempt to breath more easily). Posturing is generally a sign of a very sick snake. A mild problem may go away on its own if the conditions that caused it are corrected, but a serious respiratory problem (especially with posturing) will warrant a visit to the reptile vet immediately to avoid the snake developing stomatitis or worse - the snake could die. If your snake is displaying serious symptoms seek the advice of a reptile vet as soon as possible.

    Infectious Stomatitis (Mouth Rot):
    Stomatitis is not a primary disease; it refers to any condition that affects the mouth, gums, teeth or palate. Just like “respiratory,” stomatitis is a symptom of some other underlying condition. An infection of the mouth can occur when a snake’s immune system is compromised or stressed. Check any husbandry practices, that is, make sure temperature and humidity are at recommended levels and the enclosure is being kept clean. Make sure your snake is receiving adequate nutrition (being fed often enough). Make sure there are no mites or other parasites in the enclosure or on the snake. Stomatitis could also be a consequence of an injury, such as nose-rubbing inside the enclosure or a bite from prey. There has to be a cause for a stomatitis infection, so you must check everything, and if the stomatitis is not mild, and you cannot find a cause, you should take your snake to a reptile vet immediately.
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    As a treatment option for a mild case of stomatitis, while you correct any poor husbandry practices, you can try rinsing your snake’s mouth with an antiseptic, such as properly diluted Chlorhexidine gluconate 2%. Chlorhexidine should be mixed at .75 tsp per 32 ounces of clean water.

    If you have any questions about corn snake care, husbandry practices or illnesses that are not covered here please post your questions in the “Snake:Colubrids” forum or in the “Help my reptile is sick” forum.
    Last edited by sdellin; 13-01-18 at 00:27.
    My name is Sharon, mommy to Malakai. We live in Vacaville, CA in the US.

    If it's meant to be it'll be, if it ain't it won't... it's life, live with it.

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