Are Corn Snakes Nocturnal, Or Are They Diurnal?

Across the southeastern parts of the United States, there lay forests of different types spread out over varying climatic zones. There are coastal plains, the Applachians, Mississippi and Alluvial valleys cradling trees like birches, cedars, pines, cypress and maples. Within these forests and along the clearings, are homes of corn snakes, besides other types of critters.

Homes of Corn Snakes

Though corn snakes could be sighted wriggling around over leaf litter at daytime, but people who want to know more about them often ask are corn snakes nocturnal? They do show variations in their sleep and activity time tables, both in the wild and in captivity. Collectors, breeders and pet-keepers do need to know their activity schedules before adopting them so that they can give the best possible life to their pet corn snakes.

Are Corn Snakes Nocturnal: Or Are They Day-Time Explorers?

Corn snakes are named so for a reason. They are often seen slithering and sneaking around granaries and barns where rodents seem to visit too, and rodents are corn snake’s favorite food. One sure-fire way to identify corn snakes is to turn them over, if you ever have the chance, and observe their ventral side. You will see a checkerboard pattern formed by red and black crisscrosses running straight and horizontally. From afar, the pattern resembles corn kernels!

Corn Snake Sleeping

They are beautiful red and orange snakes that are long and slender, and are often compared with milk snakes and copperheads because of similar pattern and coloration. However, copperheads are slightly venomous whereas the other two are not. Corn snakes also have a spear-shaped blotch on top of the head, an effective way to set them apart from other snakes.

Corn Snake Sleeping And Activity Pattern

Are corn snakes nocturnal? They do demonstrate nocturnal patterns at times, but they are generally not active during daytime. When the sun is shining on the grasslands and forest edges, corn snakes keep themselves hidden within hollow log pieces, layers of leaf litter, and even underneath rocks and boulders. This protects them from heat and unwanted visitors sniffing, chirping or cawing at them.

Corn Snake Activity Pattern At Night

In urban areas, you may find corn snakes coiled under thick boards of wood or behind trash cans, or in the nooks and crannies of barns and cow-sheds. They are not particularly scared of humans, however, as they often get mistaken for copperheads, they get persecuted unfairly.

So what do corn snakes do during the daytime? Broadly speaking, they remain inactive. They are not exploring or foraging during the daytime because their bright colors make them quite conspicuous to land and air-borne predators. Instead, they decide to sleep all throughout the day, starting from early morning till the evening. In winter, they bask during the daytime.

Do Corn Snakes Remain Active At Night?

Corn snakes are most active at times when it is quite dark out but there is still some light. Sunsets and sunrises are the times when corn snakes have been found to be most active. It is during these dusky, dim-lit hours that they finally decide to poke their heads out of their resting places, to explore and forage. Animals that are active during the twilight hours are known to be crepuscular. There are other snakes like vipers and pythons that are also crepuscular.

However, a few hours after the sun sets, the corn snake goes back to rest, and sleeps from late evening hours till dawn. At dawn, they wake up and prey on animals that are active. Corn snakes are partially arboreal and have been spotted twisting around tree trunks and pulling themselves up to the small twigs on top, reaching out for bird eggs and fledglings.

Corn Snake Searching for Bird Eggs and Fledglings

A few hours after the sun has risen, and it gets all gleaming and shiny, corn snakes retreat to their hiding spots and remain there till sunset. So you can understand that corn snakes are mostly active during the twilight hours. During the daytime and night-time, they are either hiding or resting. Night hours are their special favorite especially during summer time because at night everything starts to cool down a bit.

Do Their Activity And Sleeping Schedule Change With The Season?

Though corn snakes are, broadly speaking, crepuscular, they may show variation in their sleep and activity cycle with seasonal changes. In summer, corn snakes turn nocturnal. They cannot tolerate summer heat and temperatures above 85°F could prove to be dangerous for them. Therefore, in the summer season, they are mostly active at night. Similarly, in winter, they may show higher activity during the daytime than at night-time due to extremes in temperature.

Sleeping Schedule Change With The Season

In captivity, many have observed unique sleep and wake cycles in corn snakes that do not seem to match their natural sleep-wake rhythm. There is nothing to worry about in these situations.

Within enclosures, corn snakes may sleep at times when they should be awake due to various reasons like improper lighting or temperature conditions. They could also be hungry or they may be feeling uncomfortable due to some illness. Maintaining a fixed lighting and feeding schedule, and keeping the enclosure clean and tidy at all times, greatly reduces these issues.

Are Corn Snakes Nocturnal: How Do They Hunt And Survive?

Corn snakes are habituated to living in a variety of habitats. Corn snakes have been spotted quite frequently in the southern parts of New Jersey all the way to Virginia. They are also found in North Carolina, Florida, Louisiana and Tennessee. Much as they like coastal and terrestrial habitats, corn snakes also inhabit mountainous areas, crevices and burrows.

  • Eyes: The eyes of corn snakes help them a lot in maintaining a crepuscular life. They have large eyes with elliptical or “slit” pupils. Elliptical pupils can open up wider than the round pupils of diurnal snakes, like some species of kingsnakes and ratsnakes. The wider the pupil can open, more light can enter the retina enabling the snake to see better even in dim-lit conditions.
  • Smell: Corn snakes, like most other snakes, have poor eyesight. They mostly rely on their sense of smell to detect the presence of other animals around them. When they stick their tongue out, they pick up smell chemicals from the air. They then stick the tongue against the roof of their mouth to detect the source of the smell. It has also been observed that they can detect low frequency vibrations that emit from the ground produced by an approaching animal.
  • Ambush Technique: Corn snakes mostly pursue “ambush technique” for hunting. They mostly remain hidden within crevices and leaf litter, keeping their eyes slightly above the covering so as to see what is moving around them. Their favorite prey are rodents like mice and rats, and they are crepuscular too. When rodents come out in the twilight hours, the hidden corn snakes plunge at them and constrict them to fatality.

Are Corn Snakes Nocturnal: How To Take Care Of Them

Since corn snakes are generally crepuscular, factors like lighting, temperature, humidity and feeding schedule play a major role in maintaining their sleep-wake cycle. A snake that does not sleep and remain active at the right time, may suffer illnesses in the long run.

Taking Care of Corn Snake

  • Hiding Spots: Since they mostly remain hidden in natural habitats, provide them with lots and lots of hiding places in the enclosure you are planning to house them in. Provide a thick substrate layer made with aspen shavings or cypress mulch. Spread some dry leaves, bugs and flowers on the top to mimic the ground they slither on. They also like to climb and explore, so placing hollowed-out log pieces, large branches, rocks, caves, and climbing plants will make an excellent addition.
  • Heat: A temperature gradient ranging between 70°F and 80°F is crucial for corn snakes to thermoregulate and stay optimally active. The warmer side temperature can be maintained using heating pads or overhead heating lamps. Heating pads are great for plastic and wooden terrariums, whereas for glass ones, overhead bulbs are better. Hot rocks should be avoided because snakes tend to brush against them and stay at risk of scalding themselves.
  • Lighting: Do you like the glare of sunlight during the early hours of day? Or would you like lights gleaming at you constantly? Of course not– and it is the same for snakes. Corn snakes do not like bright lights at all. Even the lit area of the enclosure should be dim. Fluorescent light fixtures are great for this purpose. Try to maintain exactly 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness so that the corn snake can sleep and wake up in a disciplined manner. At night, if it gets too cold, try using “black bulbs” that emit heat only and not light.
  • Feeding Habits: Maintain a strict feeding schedule all day and everyday. Once they have gotten used to a feeding time-table, they will not remain awake when they are supposed to be snoozing. If you feed a corn snake at the wrong time, even after you have fed it, it will come out again at the previously scheduled time, and may not relax unless you have fed it.

This may hamper its rest and sleep schedule. Feed a corn snake early morning and late evening, because that is what they are innately used to.


Are corn snakes nocturnal? They may be spotted actively moving around at night, but they generally explore and forage in twilight hours. Knowing when they sleep and remain awake is very important when you are considering adopting one for yourself.

Q: Do corn snakes prefer darkness?

Ans: Yes, corn snakes generally prefer darkness. In the daytime, they remain hidden, or they bask or sleep.

Q: Why is my pet corn snake not active?

Ans: Maybe the corn snake is sleeping or has just eaten. Obesity or sickness may also be reasons why a corn snake remains inactive for a long time. If the snake is persistently inactive, you may consider paying a visit to the vet.

Q: Do corn snakes need sunlight?

Ans: Corn snakes do not depend on UVB for survival, but it does help their immune system.

Q: Do corn snakes sleep?

Ans: Yes, they do sleep but with their eyes open. They do not have eye-lids so even if they are asleep, you might think they are staring straight at you. However, their retina shuts down preventing light from entering their eyes.


Are corn snakes nocturnal? Generally, they are crepuscular, meaning they like dimly-lit hours,  usually when the sun is about to rise or going to set soon. Corn snakes find bright lights abhorrent and usually hide when the sun is glowing or there is too much light within an enclosure. Avoid placing a corn snake tank close to an open window since they cannot tolerate bright light. Maintaining a strict feeding and lighting schedule really helps them to thrive.

Hello snake lovers! I’m David Mifsud and Snake Insider is my latest project with a vision of spreading reptile awareness to every single netizen. I’ll be introducing some of the most unexplored territories in the world of snakes to broaden the horizon of knowledge for the readers. My personal motto is to get as close to the snakes in nature without disrupting the balance and gather information as well as habitation patterns. It can be later on utilized in order to build a safe and healthy environment for every species of snakes. So stick around with us and I’m sure we won’t disappoint you!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top