top of page

Corn snake (Pantherophis guttata)


In the collective imagination snakes have always had a negative role, considered "slimy beings" by most people. Snakes are in fact fascinating reptiles, characterized by having an "elongated" anatomy, which have adapted to the most diverse climatic conditions.

For beginners who want to keep these animals, perhaps the most suitable species is the Pantherophis guttata (Elaphe guttata), also called the "corn" snake. Native to the temperate zones of North America, it is rather long-lived (it can reach 25 years of age), does not reach demanding lengths (150-200 cm) and is not particularly demanding as regards terrarium, temperature and humidity. Today, thanks to the widespread breeding, there are many colors.

Terrarium. If you have a passion for DIY, you can try your hand at building a terrarium to house your new "friend". Being mainly terrestrial animals, the main focus of the terrarium should be in its width (around 70-80 cm for an adult animal) than in its height (about 40-50 cm), although obviously everything is left to the imagination of the "designer". The important thing is that it is always in proportion to the size of the tenant and that there is the presence of air intakes on both sides of the terrarium, at different heights, to ensure adequate air circulation; be careful to not allow for any escape routes: snakes are very skilled escape-artists !!!

When buying a baby snake, it will be advisable not to put it immediately in a terrarium that is too large, but the best solution will be a "fauna box" (easily available at pet stores), which will offer it a safer and more circumscribed environment, avoiding unnecessary stress.

Given that the hygiene and cleanliness of the terrarium directly affects the health of the animal, you will have to look for the right compromise between functionality and aesthetics when setting up your terrarium. Also take in to consideration the fact that reptiles do not have the habit of defecating in one specific place, instead "contaminating" everything that they come in to contact with.

The reduced presence of furnishing accessories, such as logs or stones, and the use of simple newspaper sheets as a liner will simplify cleaning and facilitate the identification of any parasites (for example mites) or the development of fungi and molds; this will also allow us to monitor any alterations in the animal's excrement. A faithfully reconstructed habitat will be scenically more captivating (with the use of plants, mosses, trunks, barks, etc.), but will pose many problems when it needs to be cleaned ...

Hiding places (which can also be represented by simple overturned boxes) and a bowl of water should never be missing.

Temperature and humidity. Snakes are heterothermic animals, which are not able to produce body heat and therefore exploit external heat sources in order to reach the optimal temperature for the performance of organic functions. For this purpose, the most disparate heating systems can be used (heating mats or cables, spotlights or ceramic lamps), which must be protected so that the animal cannot come into direct contact with them, protecting it from even serious burns. To these we will associate a thermostat for constant temperature control. What is important is that the terrarium is heated evenly, but we will have to make sure that we have a warmer area with a temperature of about 27-30 ° C and a more "cold" area not lower than 23-24 ° C. This thermal gradient will allow the animal to choose the area with the temperature it likes best; for this reason hiding places will have to be placed in different climatic zones. At night the temperature should not drop below the minimum daytime.

There must always be a bowl of clean water of such size as to ensure that the animal can immerse itself in it, for example when it has to moult; In this period it will also be possible to nebulize the terrarium to facilitate this operation.

Feeding. This is essentially dependent on the size of the snake. Very generally we can say that the young can be given pinkies (mice of a few days of life) every 4-5 days, while the adults mice or small rats every 7-14 days. The animals must be fed regularly and preferably with prey just killed or frozen: this is to prevent the prey from injuring the snake and, through freezing, to eliminate any parasites that the prey could carry. If you manage to get the snake used to eating dead prey from an early age, you will not have to resort, in the eventual change of the type of feeding, to the trick of having to move the prey with pliers in front of the most suspicious snakes.

Brumation (hibernation). To respect the succession of seasons in captivity and therefore the annual rhythms of these animals, starting from October, after a couple of weeks from the last meal to favor the complete emptying of the intestine, the gradual lowering of the temperature will begin until reaching , over a period of 2-3 weeks, at about 10-12 ° C. After 6-8 weeks, the reverse procedure will be carried out. This will have an important function in stimulating the immune system and activating the reproductive mechanisms.

Cohabitation and reproduction. As mentioned, the elaphi are easy to manage snakes, and usually the coexistence between several individuals can be achieved without too many problems. Obviously, particular attention will have to be paid to placing more males together while females are usually quieter. Even the reproduction of these animals does not present particular difficulties, giving satisfaction to those who try their hand at snake breeding for the first time.

Quarantine and the Veterinarian. Whenever you decide to buy an animal, or to add new ones to those already owned, you should always carry out a quarantine period (lasting 90 days) and subject the animals to a visit by a specialised veterinarian; the latter will assess the animal's state of health, the possible presence of external parasites and, through an examination of the faeces, of the intestinal ones. This is to avoid any transmission to other specimens in a collection, or to the owner (zoonoses). It will also be possible to ask for more clarification regarding the management and breeding of these reptiles from the veterinarian specialist in non-conventional animals.

bottom of page