Most of the snakes on our planet are non-venomous.
Australia is the only place that has more venomous than non-venomous snakes.
Despite being in the vast minority, it’s the venomous snakes that scare us. So naturally, we want to be able to identify them.
We’ve been told that colorful snakes tend to be venomous. So it only makes sense to wonder if corn snakes are venomous, given their bright colors.
But the ‘colorful equals venomous’ advice is completely false.
So where does that leave the corn snake? Let’s find out.
Table of Contents
- 1 Are Corn Snakes Venomous?
- 2 The Corn Snake – Colorful But Not Venomous
- 3 Non-Venomous And Docile: Ideal Pet For First-Time Snake Owners
Are Corn Snakes Venomous?
The Corn Snake is not a venomous species. It does not use venom when killing its prey. Instead, it constricts its prey until suffocates and dies, before eating it.
This does not mean that they won’t bite. If these snakes are frightened or threatened they will attack and bite. Their bite is harmless, however. More on that below.
As mentioned, the reason many people wonder if the corn snake is poisonous is its bright colors. But again, color alone tells you nothing about toxicity.
Venomous Vs Non-Venomous Snakes: How To Tell The Difference
If you’re a nature lover and spend a lot of time hiking or camping, it is to your benefit to know the difference between venomous and non-venomous snakes.
Luckily, people who know and love snakes will tell you there are a few things to look for that can help you tell the difference between the two.
In many cases, the eyes of a venomous snake have slit pupils, while the eyes of a non-venomous snake have round pupils. This is not always the case, however. The black mamba and the coral snake are highly venomous and both have round pupils.
You can also look for a heat-sensitive pit between the eyes. Some venomous snake have these. They are heat sensing pits that they use to locate warm-blooded prey. Non-venomous snakes don’t have these pits.
Apart from a few guidelines like those, it is largely impossible to tell a venomous snake from a non-venomous one, simply by looking at certain characteristics.
Our recommendation is always to familiarize yourself with all the venomous species in the are where you will be spending time outdoors. That way, you will be able to identify them on sight.
Colorful Snake Does Not Mean Venom
In the United States, there are 4 different types of venomous snakes: rattlesnakes, copperheads, cottonmouths, and coral snakes. Only coral snakes are colorful.
There are so many more non-venomous snake species and many of them have amazing color patterns.
So don’t buy into the hogwash on the internet about the most patterned and most colorful snakes being the most poisonous. It simply isn’t true.
Look at the eastern brown snake of Australia as an example. This snake is responsible for the most snakebite deaths in the Land Down Under, yet it is an unlikely looking snake.
They’re slender and are essentially tan to gray or dark brown. The belly is somewhat lighter, with some orange spots. No brightly colored dots and stripes on this venomous snake.
As mentioned, it’s generally not possible to to distinguish a venomous snake from a non-venomous ones. Many harmless snakes have bright colors and patterns and many venomous snakes don’t.
People just assume because some venomous snakes, like the coral snake, have bright colors and distinct patterns, the same applies to all snakes.
The Corn Snake – Colorful But Not Venomous
The corn snake is a great example of a harmless snake that is also bright and has a distinct pattern. Despite the bright colors, you couldn’t find a more harmless snake.
Corn snakes are native to North America. They are members of the rat-snake family Colubridae. Rat snakes aren’t venomous. They kill their prey by means of suffocation or strangulation.
They wrap their body around their prey and squeeze the life out of it. They then proceed to slowly swallow the prey whole. They feed on an assortment of rodents, lizards, frogs, birds, and eggs.
Corn Snakes Resemble The Venomous Copperhead
If you buy into the (false) theory that colorful snakes are venomous, it is easy to see why you might think the corn snake is poisonous.
It’s a slender snake that is brownish-orange or yellow and has big red splashes of color surrounded by black. This pattern runs down the middle of the back.
If that’s not enough to convince you that the snake could be venomous, the alternating rows of black and white marks on the belly remind of a checkerboard. But remember: bright does not equal poisonous.
Nevertheless, these bright colors have caused many people to kill corn snakes, mistakenly believing them to be the poisonous Copperhead.
These two snakes look very similar in appearance, though the copperhead is usually not quite as bright. But the differences end with the appearance. The copperhead is part of the viper family. These snakes inject deadly venom with their bite.
Breeders are constantly coming up with a host of different corn snake color patterns known as morphs. These can include white, black, spots and stripes as well as solid coloring. A good example is the snow corn snake.
There are even some breeders who have bred the corn snake with other snake species to produce hybrids. These hybrids are referred to as jungle corn snakes.
Some of these hybrids can be venomous, depending on what the other snake was. Hybrids have been created in captivity but none of them have the type of toxic venom that can kill someone.
A Useful Non-Venomous Snake
Killing a corn snake is senseless because these snakes do no harm, and they do a wonderful job keeping rodent populations in check. Ultimately, in killing rats, they help prevent the spread of diseases, as well as preventing damage to crops.
In addition to being useful, corn snakes are also one of the most popular pet snakes. This is due to the smallish size (they do grow fast though), the lovely colors and the fact that they are easy to care for and docile. But that does not mean they will never bite.
The Corn Snake Can Bite
Not only is the corn snake non-venomous, but it rarely bites at all. In fact, there have never been any recorded deaths caused by a bite from a corn snake.
But rarely does not mean never. If it feels threatened, or if you harass it while it is digesting or shedding, it could try to bite you. If it does bite, it won’t hurt much, though.
The mouth of the corn snake is small and they are only able to eat small prey like rats and mice. There is not even a remote chance that a corn snake can devour a human being.
Some snake experts refer to the teeth of any snake as fangs, while others say that non-venomous snakes don’t have fangs, but rows of teeth instead. Whatever you call them, the teeth of the corn snake aren’t big and that is another reason this snake is such a popular pet.
The small fangs of the snake are aligned in a row on the sides of the mouth. They are all the same length. The role of the fangs is to move the prey back into the throat where it can be swallowed and then digested.
Like other snakes, the corn snake will grow a new fang, if it loses one. This ensures that they can continue to hunt and eat and don’t stave to death if they lose some teeth.
Corn Snakes Are Placid
They’re calm snakes, but as mentioned, if startled or frightened, they can bite. You may not even notice though as the pain is minimal. There may be a little bit of blood.
Most bites are from young snakes. It is very rare to get bitten by an adult corn snake. If it does happen, it’s not a big deal. Nobody will have to dart around looking for anti-venom.
Just stay calm so that your snake lets go of you. You can spurt some cold water over the snake’s head, which should make it release its jaw.
As mentioned, bites are more common with younger snakes, but a bite from a baby corns is even less serious and will scarcely break your skin. The babies are born with tiny teeth but they’re of no threat. When one bites you, the wound is small and you can treat it yourself.
You should always clean your snake wound. Rinse it with clean water and an anti-bacterial soap. Dry the wound with a clean towel and let it air dry.
Cleaning is very important. Even though the wound is not serious, there is always the threat of an infection.
Snake Bites And The Threat of Salmonella
Because snake are carnivores, salmonella is a possibility with any bite. Salmonella comes from raw food like meat and eggs. If you get it, symptoms start to show up 12 to 72 hours after being infected.
There are a few unpleasant symptoms you might experience – fever, diarrhea, cramps, and vomiting. These symptoms could continue for up to a week. They should clear up on their own without any medical treatment. Of course, if you don’t get better, you will need to see a medical doctor.
How To Avoid Being Bitten
Whether you’re dealing with a venomous or non-venomous snake, you can take some steps to avoid being bitten. Snakes aren’t looking for conflict. They will only strike when they’ve been injured or your actions are threatening.
Here are some simple tips to avoid snake bites include:
- When walking in the wilderness, wear boots that come up over the ankles.
- Try to avoid tall grass, rocks, and piles of leaves.
- Don’t put your hand into grooves and crevices of rocks.
- Avoid walking around at night in known snake territory.
- When handling a snake in captivity, avoid quick or clumsy movements.
Non-Venomous And Docile: Ideal Pet For First-Time Snake Owners
The fact that the corn snake is non-venomous snake is one of the many reasons it is one of the best pet snakes for beginners. It is also docile, easy to care for, beautiful, and it does not grow too large. You can learn more about corn snakes as pets here.