Are Corn Snake Venomous

Are Corn Snakes Venomous: How Do They Survive In The Wilderness?

Corn snakes are one of the commonest snakes inhabiting the edges of forests, hillsides, river banks and grasslands of some states of North America. They are mainly nocturnal and have a number of predators. They battle with their enemies night and day to survive in the wild.

Corn snakes, therefore, need some ruthless attack and defense techniques to make it to the next day. Many have this question, therefore, “Are corn snakes venomous?”. The question is justified because if they are not venomous, how do they hunt? How do they protect themselves from other carnivores? Let’s dig deeper into this.

Are Corn Snakes Venomous: Hunting And Defense Strategies

Corn snakes have the scientific name Pantherophis guttatus and there is an interesting reason behind this nomenclature. Pantherophis means “snakes that resemble panthers”, while guttatus means “patches or drop-like shape”. Surely, when we observe a wild-type Carolina corn snake, we see panther-like patterns on their body– orange overall, with red or maroon saddles.

Corn snakes look exquisite with their flaming colors. However, the bright colors do make them quite conspicuous during daytime (or even after sunset), and make them resemble some venomous snakes that work both to their benefit and loss. There are some black and purple colored corn snake morphs, but they are captive-bred and are not released into the wild.

Corn Snake Into The Wild

So how do these snakes battle against all adversaries and survive in the wild? Do they inject poison to subdue their prey? Let’s learn more about their lifestyle, attack and self-protection strategies. Some facts will bring you to the edge of your seat, so buckle up!

Are Corn Snakes Venomous?

Corn snakes belong to a large family of snakes called Colubridae, of which milk snakes and kingsnakes are also a part. This family consists of non-venomous or mildly venomous snakes. Mildly venomous snakes of this family include the Boiga genus snakes or cat snakes. To clear all confusion for once and for all: Corn snakes are completely non-venomous snakes.

Corn snakes may look like certain venomous snakes, the reason why they are often confused as venomous too. They may also shake their tail like a rattlesnake, where the latter is consi- dered as one of the most venomous snakes of all times. Yes, corn snakes do hiss and bite when they feel harassed or threatened, but that alone does not mean that it is venomous.

What Do Corn Snakes Look Like?

The wild-type Carolina corn snakes have an orange body with red saddles, while the Great Plains rat snakes and Slowinski’s corn snakes look slightly different with a gray and white appearance. Besides the three species of corn snakes, there are around 800 morphs, all bred in captivity using hybridization, cross breeding and inbreeding techniques. These morphs appear in almost every color– blue, pink, red, black, white and yellow!

Corn Snake Color Variation

Corn snakes are not enormous snakes but they are not that tiny either. Usually they grow anywhere between 2 and 5 feet, but some specimens could be as long as 6 feet! Hatchlings are between 5 and 12 inches long and weigh between 10 and 50 gm. Adult corn snakes could weigh between 500 and 800 gm!

How Does One Confirm That A Corn Snake Is Not Venomous?

There are certain physical traits that are an effective give-away to their non-venomous identity. When a human approaches this snake suddenly or invasively, it will hiss and attempt to bite, which is, though intimidating, a golden opportunity to find out if it is poisonous. When it opens its mouth, notice that there are no large and pointed fangs, but only rows of small teeth that resemble mammalian incisors.

Small Fangs and Teeth Indicate Corn Snake is not Venomous

Also, look for the presence of heat-sensing pits that are usually found close to the nostrils of most poisonous snakes, like pit vipers and rattlesnakes. There are no such pits present on a corn snake’s snout. You may also observe a corn snake’s behavior which is extremely docile and non-confrontational. Usually venomous snakes are aggressive and tend to attack.

Lastly, but very importantly, unlike some venomous snakes that raise their neck before they bite, corn snakes do not take any such position before attempting to bite. They also do not spit venom like spitting cobras do. All these physical and behavioral cues will indicate and confirm that corn snakes are not venomous.

Which Venomous Snakes Resemble Corn Snakes?

There are two venomous snakes in particular that resemble corn snakes very closely– coral snakes and copperhead snakes. This is one of the main reasons why many mistake corn snakes to be venomous and take their life unfairly.

Copperhead snakes have a brown and maroon appearance, while coral snakes have a tri-banded look of black, yellow and red. These colors are shared by all the three snakes. However, there are distinct differences between the three that will help you to tell them apart.

Copperhead Resemble Corn Snakes as Venomous

For instance, coral snakes and copperhead snakes are much shorter than corn snakes. While corn snakes could be 5 feet long, coral snakes and copperhead barely reach 3 feet in body length. Also, while coral snakes and corn snakes do not have heat sensing pits, copperheads do have them. Lastly, coral and copperhead snakes have large fangs in their mouth that corn snakes do not possess.

What Are Some Hunting Techniques Of Corn Snakes?

Snakes use their tongues to detect the presence of prey or predators around them, and corn snakes are no exception. Corn snakes stick their tongue out to pick up chemicals from the air, and then brush the tongue against the roof of their mouth. There are a bunch of chemo- receptor cells at the back of their nasal cavity that help them to detect a foreign presence.

Corn snakes are crepuscular or nocturnal, meaning they are most active in the moon-lit, dark hours of the day. They wriggle out of their hidden positions at night in search of food like rodents and birds. They possess slit pupils instead of round ones that help them to narrow down their focus on a prey, thus making them aim better. Corn snakes pursue ambush techniques to initiate their attacks– they stay hidden under leaf litter and strike at the right time.

Corn snakes ambush technique

Corn snakes, being non-venomous, have small teeth called aglyphous that they use to hold onto their prey tightly. These teeth are not connected to any venom sac and their bites are therefore not poisonous. While they grasp onto their prey, they constrict simultaneously, suffocating the prey to fatality. Their jaws and ribs are highly expandable allowing them to swallow prey that are larger than the size of their own head!

What Are Some Defense Techniques Of Corn Snakes?

Corn snakes really know how to defend themselves from predators though they neither have fangs nor venom. Because of the similarity in body coloration, corn snakes look a lot like the venomous coral snakes and copperheads. Corn snakes take advantage of this similarity in appearance and enjoy the benefits by scaring large predators, like foxes, away.

Defense Techniques against predators

Not only that, corn snakes also mimic rattlesnakes. They coil up whenever cornered by a predator and start beating their tail against a rough or dry surface to make the same sound as rattlesnakes make by vibrating their tails. Corn snakes are also excellent tree-climbers and swimmers and can easily run for cover when attacked.

What To Do If A Corn Snake Bites Me?

Yes, corn snakes do bite but only when they feel cornered and extremely helpless. As they are non-venomous, there is nothing to worry about if you ever get bitten by one. Follow the steps below:

  • Do not panic: The first thing you should do is relax because the bite does not have any mortal consequences. The bite itself will feel only as painful as a cat’s bite.
    Do not try to pull your hand out or hit the snake: This will aggravate the snake even more and may trigger it to keep chewing onto your skin. This may abrade your skin or cut open the skin causing you to bleed.
  • Detach the snake: Drop some ice-cold water onto the snake’s head. You can also use rubbing alcohol, something they simply loath. Using these liquids will surprise the snake and will possibly encourage it to let go off your hand.
  • Clean your wound: Use cold water to wash off any debris or blood. Wash the wound with an antiseptic cream, then dry the area completely. After that, use a band-aid (if the wound is very small) or bandage it to cover the hurt area. Visit the doctor if needed.


Are corn snakes venomous? Before you start jumping to conclusions after spotting an orange snake in your backyard, let us confirm that no, corn snakes are not venomous. They are completely harmless and non-venomous colubrid snakes.

Yes, they do resemble the venomous copperheads or coral snakes, but that does not make them venomous. Knowing the difference between the three will help you to save yourself and save the lives of these beautiful critters. Corn snakes are gentle snakes that are loved and cherished all over the world as pets.

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!

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