FAQ Corn Snakes
Parent Category: FAQs
Published on Friday, 31 October 2008 14:59
About Corn Snakes &
South Mountain Reptiles
Some of the most popular questions prospetive Corn Snake customers and new Corn Snake owners ask are:
Q: WHAT does MORPH mean, relative to particular types of corns?
A: MORPH is to Corn Snake Herpetoculture what BREED is in the dog world. Essentially all of them being the same species (Pantherophis guttatus) but with different ploygenetic features that distinguish them from other morphs, mutations and wild-types.
Q: WHAT should I do upon first receiving my new corn snake?
A: Prior to receiving your new pet snake, your cage should be set up for days (or weeks), to sufficiently demonstrate the most important facet of snake keeping; HEAT. In so much as snakes are not capable of producing body heat sufficient for appetite and digestion, ensuring the cage is properly heated is the most crucial pre-requisite to the health and welfare of your snake(s). Our Online Corn Snake CARE SHEET describes all crucial details regarding the set-up and heating of your cage.
Lower body temperatures (along with the jostling from shipping) can cause some corn snakes to be uncharacteristically "temperamental" upon arrival, so we advise against frequent handling in the first 24-48 hours after delivery, thereby expediting acclimation to their new surroundings. You may, of course, monitor your new snake frequently during this period to evaluate any potential cage problems that would jeopardize safety and/or facilitate escapes. Many of our customers elect to proactively condition their new snakes by frequent handling immediately after delivery, and most of them report no offensive (or defensive) behaviors on the part of the snake. Even though corns are arguably the tamest serpent species in captivity, your new arrival may initially be perturbed (likely from the constant motion of shipping) and/or feel threatened by the unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells of his/her new surroundings. Therefore, biting may result from rushing the acclimation process. More details can be found on this subject (and others) in our Online CARE SHEET.
Q: WHY doesn't my new SMR corn snake hatchling look like the picture on this web site?
A: Corn snakes change dramatically from hatchling to adult. We demonstrate the average appearance of the corns we produce via pictures of adults. Since your corn will only be a neonate/juvenile for a year or two, we show you how it will look for 80+% of its captive life. It is unwise to choose corn snakes by looking at pictures of non-adults. We GUARANTEE the SMR snake you receive from us will mature to be like the image featured for each respective morph in the SHOP ONLINE section of this web site.
Q: HOW do I reserve a snake that has not yet hatched?
A: Ordinarily, we accept deposits and prepayments for snakes that will soon be in stock, but in that this year we have staggered the breeding into three groups, and we're consequently uncertain about precisely when some of the morphs we feature will be in stock, instead of accepting deposits or prepayments this year (2011), we have installed an app in the shopping cart that will allow you to request to be notified via email when out-of-stock morphs are ready for shipping. The potential for missing out when dozens of people receive notification at the same time - for the morph(s) you're interested in - is slim. It has always been our policy to produce ample quantities of each morph we advertise, or not advertise them at all. Go to the ORDERING section of our web site for more details on the ordering procedure.
Q: HOW safe and reliable is reptile shipping via door-to-door, next day service?
A: Using FedEx live animal shipping services since 2002, we have averaged less than one d.o.a. (dead on arrival) snake per year. FedEx's handling procedures and subsequent reliability make them the only door-to-door carrier we will use for the thousands of corns we ship annually. All orders are shipped for next day delivery - usually arriving before noon - and each box is custom packed to facilitate comfort and safety for the animals.
Q: WHEN will my new pet(s) be delivered?
A: FedEx is the most reliable live animal shipper we have ever used. Literally 99.9% of all packages we ship arrive the day after shipping. Generally speaking, packages shipped to destinations within large cities are anticipated to be delivered before 10:30 am, before noon if just outside the city, and before 4:30 pm when destinations are remotely located from cities. Weather is one factor that can cause package not to be delivered on time, but another primary factor is mechanical difficulties (i.e. trucks or planes that experience problems that cause delays). In so much as such things cannot be predicted, all door-to-door carriers have a disclaimer that packages may be delivered late, should such unavoidable problems occur. Therefore, while the tracking hyperlink emailed to you will reveal the expected delivery time of day, should such unavoidable events occur, delivery of your package may be delayed. Hence, we recommend you plan for someone to be available for the entire day. One of your options is have it delivered to a FedEx office for you to pick up when convenient for you. The tracking hyperlink you receive will advise you of tracking progress, and denote the time your package is ready for pick up. Some of our custoemers have their package shipped to their place of work or to a neighbor or friend, when the suspect nobody can be home to accept delivery. Let us know if one of those options is better for you than home delivery.
Q: HOW soon should I offer a rodent to my new pet(s) after delivery and what size is recommended?
A: At nominal cage temperatures, corns generally digest three days after feeding, so we ship only snakes that last fed more than 72 hours prior to shipping. We therefore recommend offering the first meal to your new pet two to seven days after its arrival. CAUTION: It is vital that you do not offer food to your new snake until you are certain cage temperatures are conducive to digestion. For the first two or three feedings, it is also prudent to offer prey items that are half the size customarily fed. Consult our Online CARE SHEET for the appropriate rodent size for your new corn. After two or three smaller prey feedings, if normal digestion is observed, it should be safe to move up to appropriately sized rodents.
Q: WHY was my snake so cold when it was delivered?
A: Fortunately, we're not shipping parakeets or gold fish that have very strict temperature requirements. Most colubrid snakes can tolerate body temperatures near freezing, but temperatures over 85oF can cause serious health problems and even death. Therefore, we add temperature compensaters (i.e. gel packs, heat packs) to ensure that temperatures are not too high. In that we are fortunate that snakes tolerate such a great range of lower temperatures, it is safe and easy to use temperature compensating products to keep them cool, but trying to heat the insides of the boxes is challenging and sometimes unsafe. Even if your new SMR snake arrives so cold it can barely move, that's better than it arriving dead from overheating.
During our winter shipping season, domestic next day door-to-door U.S. shipping will be only on Mondays and Wednesdays each week that do not potentially conflict with a holiday or commercial reptile event. For any season of the year, each order is custom packed in a new box that includes applicable temperature modifiers (heat and/or gel packs) relative to anticipated weather and respective shipping routes. With over 40 years of animal packing and shipping experience, we guarantee live arrival if delivery is not delayed by the customer's failure to be available for the first delivery attempt by FedEx (or their contractors). Our winter shipping prerequisites are:
destination (and FedEx Hub in Memphis) night temperatures must be above 14o F.
destination (and FedEx Hub in Memphis) airport must be operating normally
destination city streets must facilitate delivery truck traffic
If temps are below 14o F, but above 5o F, and if city streets and airports are open to normal traffic, we will ship to most destinations - provided the customer picks up the package at a FedEx Facility per EXPRESS HOLD AT LOCATION services. In this way, excessive exposure to cold temperatures in the delivery trucks is reduced.
Q: WHY was my snake packed so tightly in the shipping container?
A: Aside from the fortune of shipping animals that only use one of their lungs and do not have high aerobic requirements, our snakes arrive less stressed when they have been somewhat constrained during shipping. At SMR, we don't use wood pulp bedding as a shipping substrate. We use a soft paper composite called Diamond Soft®, a Harlan Teklad product that has no sharp edges and is spongy (unlike virtually ALL wood pulp products in our hobby that are rigid with sharp edges). We almost fill the shipping container after introducing the snake, leaving some room for movement in the container during shipping. They are NEVER pinned in the container, but experience a feeling of security by not bouncing around inside the container in transit. This results in the snake expending fewer calories in shipping, and they certaily sustain less skin damage incurred by snakes shipped in wood pulp shavings. Diamond Soft is also considerably more absorbent than wood pulp shavings, so liquids from feces are more quickly absorbed and confined to small zones of the substrate.
Q: HOW should I heat my corn snake's cage?
A: Regardless of the climate where you live, the indoor temperature preferred by most humans is unacceptably cool for your corn snake - for most of the year. Since your snake is not capable of internally regulating its body temperature, you must offer thermal options within the cage. Corn snakes will generally not utilize such thermal options unless such temperate locations are in total privacy. It is therefore recommended that you offer an adequately private hide on the warm end of the cage that maintains 80oF to 84oF (27oC to 29oC) at all times, and one on the other end of the cage that is below 80oF (27oC) at all times. It is not advisable to keep corn snakes in rooms that experience temperatures above 87oF (31oC). If your corn snake is subjected to cage temperatures that cause its body temperature to exceed88oF (31oC)for prolonged periods, illness and/or death may result.
Q: CAN corn snakes be safely housed together?
A: Generally speaking, it is not advisable to communally house young corns. We, and hundreds of customers and colleagues do occasionally find the need to house more than one corn snake per cage, but even when precautionary measures are employed, there is no guarantee that one or more cage mates will evade injury or death from feeding confusion by one or more snakes. Precautionary measures that reduce the possibility of cannibalism among communally housed neonatal corns includes (but is not limited to) feeding them separately outside the community cage and thoroughly rinsing each snake with slightly cool water for 30-60 seconds before reintroducing them to the commune. Regardless of visual appearance - to a neonatal corn, anything remotely tasting or smelling like food is on the menu. This includes your fingers, so never allow prey OR predator smells to be on your skin or clothing before handling any snake. Instances of injury from mistaken identifications like these are common among snakes since it's virtually impossible for any snake not to have rodent odors on them after eating, and because a corn snake's sense of smell is so utterly acute. I estimate the chances of cannibalism, even after employing such precautionary measures as thorough rinsing, to be 1.5% to 3% (based on customer testimonies and my personal experiences), but community housing is still ill-advised. Many times, I've witnessed attacks by corn snakes when suddenly awakened by room lights coming on, jarring of their cage, and just from rodent smells in the vicinity of their cage. That said about hatchling corns, I have never witnessed a corn snake over 30" (76cm) long being seriously injured or killed by a cage mate. At that size (and larger) initial feeding responses that cause the attack are usually halted when the power of the attacked snake is demonstrated. I think the odds of serious injury or death from larger communally housed corns would be much less than 1%. It is contrary to the basic instinct of corns to relish eating other corn snakes, but survival instincts being as strong as they are in most animals, anything is possible. Therefore, housing them separately is always advised.
IMPORTANT NOTE: There is only one place in the cage where temperature matters, and that place is the snake's body. Since you cannot conveniently (if at all) monitor the snake's internal body temperature, and since snakes achieve their body temperature from the air or substrate around or beneath them, the only place to put a thermometer in your cage is inside the warm hide where the snake will spend over 80% of most days. That is the primary zone in the cage where the temperature should be80oF - 84oF(27oC to 29oC), and even a mere two inches outside that hide, temperatures can be higher or lower by as much as 10 deg F. I cannot over-emphasize the importance of maintaining that temperature range INSIDE the hide, and that the only way to gage your success is to check the temperature INSIDE that hide. A thermometer on the side glass of the aquarium is no indicator of thermal success (the most crucial pre-requisite to keeping your snakes healthy).
It is rare when UT (Under Tank) heaters are not solely adequate for heating your snake. By attaching one to the underside of an vivarium (beneath one of the hides), you should be able to achieve adequate appetite and digesting temperatures atop the substrate IN the hide. Lights are not recommended, as they are inefficient, cost-foolish, and often contribute to dehydration in your snake by excessively removing moisture from ambient cage airspace. Some snakes have died from the effects of OT (Over Tank) lights and heat emitters. More details can be found on this subject (and others) in the CARE SHEET on this web site.
Q: WHY are cage 'HIDES' important for my corn?
A: A hide is any furnishing in the cage that allows your snake to feel as if it is truly hiding from you and all else, thereby instinctively instilling a feeling in your snake that it is safe from predation. The very definition of HIDE should be a pre-requisite to choosing what types of refuges to put in your snake's cage. If you can see your snake in the hide, it's not a hide. Without eyelids, and because the nature of corn snakes is to feel safe under cover of darkness, it is vital to the mental health of your snake to spend daylight hours in a virtually dark hide. I guess it's sort of an Ostrich head-in-the-sand thing. Of course, there must be an opening for the snake to gain access, but that opening should be directed toward a wall or other area with limited human (or household pet) commotion and light. It is more important for your snake not to see activity outside that hide - than for you (or your dog or cat) to be able to spy on it. More details can be found on this subject (and others) in the CARE SHEET on this web site.
Q: WHAT cage substrate is best for my corn's cage?
A: We have used many different substrate materials in the 40+ years of keeping and breeding corn snakes, but none have the convenience, economy, and safety of aspen bedding. IF there is a second best particulate substrate, it may be one of the recycled newsprint products that have been processed for cage use. I do NOT recommend using sheet or shredded newspaper, bark products, or carpet under your snakes as they do not provide an adequate buffer between the UT (Under Tank) heater and your snake. Ingestion of particulate wood pulp substrates other than aspen can be harmful, but my snakes routinely ingest pieces of their aspen bedding, and I have never been able to attribute a death to such ingestion. NEVER use sand, gravel or cedar. More details can be found on this subject (and others) in the CARE SHEET on this web site.
Q: CAN captive corn snakes eat anything other than rodents?
A: Yes, but if you mean "do they eat anything other than animals", the answer is "no". Some corns will voluntarily eat link-shaped sausage, processed animal products that are composed of ground meat and other rendered byproducts. They are sold frozen for extended storage life, of course. Of the many different brands I've offered to my snakes over the years, none were sufficiently accepted enough for me to consider switching away from rodents. Therefore, I cannot in good conscience recommend them, nor have I discovered any independent and unbiased product reviews verifying that they are nutritionally adequate rodent substitutes. Since they are not for human consumption, most governments do not require complete content divulgence, so it may be impossible to know exactly what is in those rendered products.
Q: HOW will I know if or when my snake needs to eat larger rodents?
A: An effective (if not simplistic) way of determining if you are feeding prey items that are too small for normal growth is to observe the size of the stomach bulge that corresponds to a recent meal. If that meal bulge is not obvious in the mid-section of the snake (approximate location of the stomach) 24 hours after feeding, you should be able to safely move up to the next sequential rodent size IF cage conditions are conducive to digestion. The normal progression of mouse sizes for corns is: small pinky → medium pinky → large pinky → fuzzy → hopper → weaned → small adult → medium adult → large adult. More details can be found on this subject (and others) in the CARE SHEET of this web site.
Q: WHERE can I find frozen rodents?
A: Testimonies from thousands of customers over the years indicate that the most satisfactory sources for frozen rodents are the many online frozen rodent suppliers located across the U.S.. Of course, I presume the same can also be said about rodent vendors in other countries of the world. There is nothing inherently wrong with getting frozen mice from your local pet stores, as long as the stores have demonstrated a consistent inventory of quality rodents in the sizes you need (or will later need). It can be frustrating (if not devastating) to have your local pet store tell you they are out of the small pinkies you ordinarily buy, but have plenty of fuzzies, even though those are obviously too large for your snake to safely consume. The best advice I have in those situations is to let the snake go one more week without eating, giving you time to purchase the proper mouse size from an alternate source. It's traditionally safer to let your snake skip a week of feeding, rather than your snake potentially becoming ill from regurgitating a meal that was too large to digest.
Regarding which of the online rodent suppliers to recommend, based on my limited patronage with a few of the largest national suppliers, I cannot say which ones are consistently better or worse than others. That said; the obvious wisdom in the realm of economy is that the landed cost of your mice will be lower when purchased from the suppliers nearest to you, by virtue of dry ice shipping being less expensive when trucked shorter distances. Consider "sampling" the smallest possible orders from several suppliers, so as to evaluate which one has the best product and service within your budget.
I personally prefer rodents that are vacuum-packaged, since I thaw hundreds of rodents at a time, and prefer to serve them to the snakes dry, with the least amount of time between being solidly frozen and completely thawed. With non vacuum-packed products, it's not possible for me to serve dry rodents to my snakes, since the non-vacuumed packages are riddled with punctures from hundreds of needle sharp claws. When I do use non-vacuum packed rodents, I prefer to empty the bags of frozen mice into warm water. Except for the extra hour or two for them to dry after wet-thawing, the only asset from thawing this way is that the warm water washes away fecal debris, cage bedding, and some of the other residual odors. I could allow the zip-sealed bags to air dry on tables or on the floor, but room air drying is time consuming, and depending on the temperature of the room or contact surface, the thawing time can be anywhere from three to five hours. Open air thawing also potentially exposes your mice to insects and household pets. Additionally, the debris in the freezer bag still clings to the thawed mice, and most unwashed mice have a decidedly unpleasant odor that can only be reduced by water thawing or rinsing. I can thaw 500 vacuum-sealed adult mice in one sink of warm water in one hour or less if I refresh the water two or three times to maintain thawing temperatures. The reason I prefer this way is because I do not recall ever being offended by the smell of my primary supplier's vacuum-sealed mice, nor do I recall seeing ANY feces or cage bedding in any of the thousands of packages of mice I've received from Big Cheese Rodent Factory. The consistently-sized flat foam trays also stack better in the freezer than do the bulky and variably shaped zip-sealed bags, and this allows me to buy bigger lots of rodents at a time. Did I mention that with vacuum-packed products from my supplier, the rodents are aligned in linear, single-file fashion on a flat foam tray with claws pointed away from the plastic bagging to maintain vacuum? Because few packages are punctured, most can be thawed in warm water, yielding thawed mice that do not require drying or cleaning. I have received and satisfactorily used non-vacuumed packages of mice from other vendors and except for a stronger odor that virtually all of my snakes were unoffended by, the only negative distinction was the extra time between being frozen and dry-served. As it is with foods consumed by humans, cold food should remain cold as long as possible and not served to your snakes if over-exposed to room temperatures.
Any package of whole frozen animals (vs. processed animal parts without internal organs) should have a somewhat undesirable smell, but pungent and offensive odors could be signs of spoilage and/or non-hygienic housing conditions prior to freezing. I recommend buying white (albino) rodents - as a total lack of color in their coats is an outward indicator of a higher product quality - as a probable result of better hygiene practiced at the breeding facility. When purchasing white rodents, if the fur is excessively color-stained (i.e. from urine or fecal matter), excessively tangled, has fecal matter or cage bedding stuck to it, and/or if the smell when initially opening the package is abruptly offensive, consider not feeding those rodents to your snakes. Some of these could be indications of nothing more than animals that were not clean before packing, but sometimes it is difficult to discern between rodents not healthfully maintained prior to freezing and rodents that were spoiled prior to (or during) shipping or storage. Another good reason to buy white rodents is that any discolored ones you notice after thawing could have been exposed to room temperatures for too long between killing and freezing, rendering them partially spoiled (having excessive populations of bacteria, etc.) and are therefore easy to identify and destroy. The tell-tale blue/black coloration of the skin beneath the fur may escape your detection if not so obvious beneath a coat of white fur. Before ordering frozen rodents, have a clear understanding the seller's terms of service regarding their return and/or refund policies - in cases where you are totally dissatisfied with product quality.
Q: CAN I feed live rodents to my corn?
A: Obviously, live rodents are on the menu in the wild, but the main distinction between wild corns eating live mice and your captive corns eating live mice is too complicated to describe. Among the distinctions is the fact that the captive corn has limited retreat options if it needs to get away from a particularly vicious mouse, and captivity surely diminishes the natural instincts that their wild counterparts maintain to survive. Therefore, if there is only a one-in-100 chance of a live mouse injuring a captive corn, it is obvious that the chance of such a feeding injury with a dead mouse is closer to zero-in-100. BTW, from speaking to thousands of customers over the years that fed live rodents to their corns, only one or two per 100 keepers reported seeing serious injuries from live mice, and those events represented incidence frequency of more like one-in-1,000 feedings. Healthy captive corns are very powerful, and even though it may appear that they seize a live mouse haphazardly, most attacks on live mice are calculated, precise, and inherently safe. More details can be found on this subject (and others) in the CARE SHEET of this web site.
Q: WHY did my snake suddenly stop eating?
A: Temperature is the number-one reason for a normally vigorously feeding snake to refuse a meal for no apparent reason. If the warm hide in the cage was too warm, it would cause a corn to occupy cooler parts of the cage. If the warm hide is too cool, either that hide or other parts of the cage are equally non-conducive to appetite and digestion. In both cases, most corns choose fasting over instinctively perceived illness, essentially rationalizing that there is no point in eating something they are incapable of digesting. Some of the common reasons for unobvious food refusals are:
1) Not hungry
2) Preparing to shed
3) Prey item is too large
4) Prey item smells bad to your snake
5) Nervousness from activity or handling prior to the meal offering
6) Close proximity to cage mates or other household pets at the time of feeding
7) Some adult males may refuse food if in proximity to adult females during breeding season
8) Most adult females will refuse food in the final stages of egg production
Of course, if your snake suffers from an illness, they often refuse to eat. If you suspect this, do not waste too much time in seeking a qualified reptile veterinarian to examine your snake. More details can be found on this subject (and others) in the CARE SHEET of this web site.
Q: IS it safe to feed wild mice?
A: Even if you sufficiently froze wild rodents, there is no guarantee they didn't ingest poisons prior to freezing. Freezing may efficiently kill many parasites in or on the rodent, but will not neutralize poisons. Hence, I cannot think of any justification for feeding wild mice to your corn snakes. Of course, besides the potentiality of poisoning your snake, feeding a live wild mouse could endanger your snake via serious bite injuries from naturally aggressive rodents. More details can be found on this subject (and others) in the CARE SHEET of this web site.
Q: WHAT other animals are safe to feed my corn?
A: Ground-feeding animals like lizards, frogs, toads, and birds, obviously harbor parasites and other pathogens they ingested from feeding off the ground. Freezing kills most of the pathogens, but how do you know they weren't exposed to toxins prior to freezing. I knew a keeper who killed his corn by feeding it Anole lizards. Since young corns in the southern states of their U.S. range subsist almost solely on lizards, when I asked where he got the lizards, he said they were found in abundance around the railroad tracks near his home. It was later discovered that defoliates were sprayed by the railroad maintenance crews, and he may have inadvertently poisoned his snake with lizards that had the chemical on their skin. Therefore, I don't know of any substitute food that offers the correct balance of nutrition offered by captive-bred rodents, and therefore recommend feeding nothing else to your corns. Corns of any size should NEVER be fed insects of any kind. More details can be found on this subject (and others) in the CARE SHEET of this web site.
Q: WHAT size will my new SMR snake be when it arrives?
A: The hatching season changes from one year to another, but generally speaking, it is between July and October. The first wave of eggs hatch between May and August, and approximately two months later the second (and final) batch of eggs hatch between September and October. Therefore, unless you have ordered older snakes from the previous season(s) whose ages will be advertised, the size and age of your new pet will depend on when you order and when they hatched. We consider corns to be hatchlings until they are one year old. After that time, they are considered yearlings until their second birthday.
Q: HOW fast will my new SMR corn grow?
A: As a rule, adult female corns average 3.5 to 4.0 feet in length at maturity. Males are generally 4.0 to 4.5 feet long when fully grown. A corn snake over five feet long is rare and I have never seen one that was six feet long. When most corns hatch, they are between eight and 11 inches long. Growth rates are dependent upon genetics and feeding regimens, but if you feed one appropriately sized prey item every week, your corn should grow about 1/2 to one inch per month. Cage temperatures also play a factor in determining growth. The once-a-week feeding regimen is considered growth-nominal to slightly below nominal (but nutritionally safe) at proper cage temperatures. Average growth for corn snakes in captivity that are fed every four to six days (only done in properly safe cage conditions - see CARE SHEET on this web site) is 12 to 18 inches per year. Prey size can also alter those growth projections. Also, once corns graduate from fur-less pinky mice to fuzzies, an obvious growth spurt results that will accelerate growth rates.
HEALTH and SANITATION
Q: WHY did my snake regurgitate?
A: There are many reasons for snakes to regurgitate/vomit a recently consumed meal, but it is NOT natural, and often points to a serious medical or environmental problem. More than likely, the stimulus for the regurgitation points to an environmental problem in the cage (usually incorrect temperature), but regardless, it is crucial that you do not offer another meal soon after such an event, without first correcting the stimulus for the event and/or without employing post-regurgitation therapies which can be found in the CARE SHEET on this web site.
Q: WHAT should I use to clean cages and accessories?
A: I have experimented with many commercially manufactured cleansers, and I now use just two. I wash all cages and cage furnishings with OTC (over-the-counter) anti-bacterial dish-washing liquids and I then sanitize with a dilute bleach/water solution, followed by water rinsing. More details can be found on this subject (and others) in the CARE SHEET of this web site.
Q: WHAT is the best way to pick up my corn?
A: Even though corns are considered a domesticated species by virtue of being captive-bred so extensively, they are not instinctively trusting of any animal that is larger than themselves. It is therefore prudent to observe some of the "rules of engagement" that have proven to be most successful. Other than the first few days after receiving your new pet (during the process of acclimating to the new environment), when reaching to pick up your corn, approach it without delay. Sometimes, if you are slow to pick up a corn or make hesitating gestures in the process, it may distrust your intentions. Pick up your corn snake mid-body without hesitation, but do not attempt to grab it by the neck or tail, as these are the most defensively sensitive areas of any snake. If your snake seems to resent being grasped, put your fingers under it and lift it out of the cage. Letting its body rest on your hand instead of constraining it by grasp reduces the chance of the snake misidentifying you as a predator. Make sure your hands are clean (devoid of food and pet smells) and don't let other household pets near you while holding your corn until you know the particular reaction of your snake to those stimuli. Most corns are not attracted to or intimidated by other household pets, but until you know your snake to be one of those, don't risk being mistakenly bitten because your snake sensed a predator. More details can be found on this subject (and others) in the CARE SHEET of this web site.
Q: WHY didn't my corn shed in one complete piece?
A: Even if you live in parts of the country with relatively high humidity, home furnaces during the winter can dehydrate your snake's cage, and your snake. Refrigeration Air Conditioners also dehydrate air in your home, but not as much as most home furnaces. Make certain your cage is not overheated, and it may be necessary to soak your snake in water to help it shed OR if you prefer to be proactive, many corn keepers put damp sphagnum moss inside the warm hide for the entire ten-day shedding process. This will super-hydrate the old skin, making partial sheds less frequent. More details can be found on this subject (and others) in the CARE SHEET of this web site.
Q: IS municipal tap water safe for corns?
A: Your corn snake should always have access to clean drinking water. The water should be routinely changed - at least twice a week - and immediately - if soiled or cloudy-looking. City tap water often contains anti-bacterial chemicals that can be in relatively harmful proportions for small snakes. Filtered drinking water (affordably available at all grocery stores) is recommended, but do not use distilled water, as it lacks valuable minerals essential for proper nutrition in your pet. Home water softeners add minerals and chemicals such as sodium (or potassium), and are therefore not recommended. I believe adult corns can tolerate the municipal tap water more-so than the neonates. More details can be found on this subject (and others) in the CARE SHEET of this web site.
Q: WHY is my snake trying to bite me?
A: Improper cage temperatures are the most likely stimulus for snakes biting humans. Expect distrusting and defensive behavior the first few days after receiving your new snake, but most corns are highly tolerant of humans, and bites from them are therefore rare. Often, during the shedding process that lasts ten days or more, corns have impaired vision from the old skin covering their eyes. They are instinctively aggressive toward anything near them until emerging from the old skin, when their site is restored. More details can be found on this subject (and others) in the CARE SHEET of this web site.
Q: HOW do I recover an escaped corn?
A: The first 48 hours offer your best chance for recovery. Corns are naturally nocturnal so if loose in your home, they will cruise around at night in search of comfortable temperatures. As a rule, if they don't find what they seek the first night, they hole up and try again the next night. For the first 48 hours after escape, they are usually in the room from which they escaped (or very close to it), but after a couple of nights of not finding their cage, they usually begin to search in other rooms of the house. If not found in the first 14 days, they are sometimes killed by household pets or from injuries sustained from accidentally being crushed under rugs. It is a good idea to leave water bowls on the floor next to a wall of each room, in case it cannot otherwise access drinking water.
The most successful retrieval method is a tape trap. Akin to the fly paper concept, the idea is to leave a piece of inexpensive painter's tape where they will get stuck to it. Do not use excessively sticky tape or you will never get them off in one piece. Of course, it would take a very large piece to entangle an adult corn, but neonates are usually incapable of escaping even small pieces of tape.
For neonatal corns, a length of tape approximately 12" x 1/2" (30 x 1.3 cm) will suffice. When corns are loose in your home, they tend to hug the walls as they search for warmth and water, so put the tape on the floor next to the walls. You can either curl both ends of the tape so it will stick to the floor with most of the sticky surface facing up or you can just let a piece fall to the floor much like you would drop a piece of ribbon. Dropping it results in the tape landing on the floor in a random heap, with sticky surfaces facing in more than one direction. When you remove the snake from the tape, do so very slowly or you may rip its skin. Sometimes warm water helps loosen the adhesive of the tape.