Other common names
Cornsnake, Corn Snake, Chicken snake, Red ratsnake, Eastern Cornsnake
Most adult cornsnakes are about 30-48 inches (76-122 cm) in total length. Adults are orangish-brown with black bordered orange, red, or brownish blotches. There is a spear-shaped pattern on the head and neck. Juveniles are similar in appearance to adults, but they may be more brownish in coloration.
Range in Florida
Cornsnakes are found throughout mainland Florida in every county. They also occur throughout the Florida Keys.
Assessment of risk to people and pets
Non-venomous. Cornsnakes are not dangerous to people or pets, but they will readily bite to defend themselves. These snakes are not aggressive and avoid direct contact with people and pets. Virtually all bites occur when the snakes are intentionally molested.
Comparison with other species
Northern mole kingsnake (Lampropeltis rhombomaculata) Non-venomous Northern mole kingsnakes are only found in the Florida Panhandle. This species has 55 small dark blotches down the back, smooth scales, a light Y-shaped pattern on the back of the head and neck, a clouded brownish belly, and lack a distinct neck.
South Florida mole kingsnake (Lampropeltis occipitolineata) Non-venomous South Florida mole kingsnakes are only found in parts of central Florida. This species has over 75 small, dark blotches down the back, smooth scales, a network of dark lines on the back of the head, and they lack a distinct neck. The belly is white or cream colored with brown blotches.
Eastern ratsnake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis) Non-venomous Eastern ratsnakes lack a spear-shaped pattern on top of the head and lack a black and white checkerboard pattern on the belly. Adults in peninsular Florida typically have four dark stripes running down the back and sides.
Most adult cornsnakes are about 30-48 inches (76-122 cm) in total length, with a record length recorded of 74 inches (188 cm). Adults are orangish-brown with black bordered orange, red, or brownish blotches. The belly is usually a black and white checkerboard pattern, though orange may also be present. The underside of the tail has two black stripes. There is a spear-shaped pattern on the head and neck. The scales are weakly keeled, and there are 27-29 dorsal scale rows at midbody. The pupil is round. Juveniles are similar in appearance to adults, but they may be more brownish in coloration.
Cornsnakes are commonly found in pinelands, hardwood hammocks, swamps, and agricultural fields. Adults and juveniles of this species are often found in suburban neighborhoods where development encroaches into favorable habitats.
When approached, cornsnakes may either flee for shelter or remain motionless to avoid detection. However, if they are cornered, both juveniles and adults will take an S-shaped posture and strike at the attacker while rapidly vibrating the tip of the tail, which produces a buzzing sound in leaf litter. If grabbed or pinned, they may bite the attacker. But these snakes typically calm down quickly if held. Nonetheless, these snakes are not aggressive, and striking is only used in defense as a last resort.
Cornsnakes commonly feed on lizards, frogs, rodents, and birds and their eggs. Cornsnakes constrict larger prey with coils of their body, but they often swallow smaller prey alive.
In Florida, females lay around 3-40 white elongate eggs, which typically hatch between August and September. The eggs are often laid in mammal burrows, loose debris, and rotting logs.
Red cornsnakes are primarily nocturnal (active at night). They are both terrestrial and extremely good climbers. They are commonly found under rocks and logs and in trees coiled under bark and within palm fronds.
Red cornsnakes are extremely beneficial to people because they prey heavily on many species that are considered pests. In fact, the name “Cornsnake” is a holdover from the days when southern farmers stored harvested ears of corn in a wood frame or log building called a crib. Rats and mice came to the corn crib to feed on the corn, and cornsnakes came to feed on the rodents. It is hard to imagine a better man-made habitat, with rafters and logs on which the snakes could climb and hide, and they were paid for using it by eating the pesky rodents.
County data coming soon.
If you have a new or interesting observation for this species, please email the herpetology staff at the Florida Museum.
Ernst, C.H. and E.M. Ernst. 2003. Snakes of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC. 668 pp.
Krysko, K.L., K.M. Enge, and P.E. Moler. 2019. Amphibians and Reptiles of Florida. University of Florida Press, Gainesville, Florida. 706 pp.
Powell, R., R. Conant, and J.T. Collins. 2016. Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. Fourth edition. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, Boston and New York. xiv + 494 pp.
Share your observations
You can help scientists better understand the biology and distribution of this species by sharing your observations. Send photos or videos of interesting observations, along with associated information, by emailing the herpetology staff at the Florida Museum for documentation in the Museum’s Herpetology Master Database. You can also post your observations on iNaturalist.
Additional helpful information
Do you have snakes around your house? Learn how to safely co-exist with snakes.
Still have questions about snakes or identifications? Feel free to email the herpetology staff at the Florida Museum with your questions or feedback on this profile.
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