Corn Snake Lifespan: Do They Live Longer In Captivity?

Corn snakes are some of the most widespread snakes of North America. They look spectacular in their orange, red and yellow hues which sparkle like golden flames in the light of the sun. Not only that, they have hundreds of color and pattern morphs that look simply exquisite.

Because of these reasons and more, people often consider adopting or purchasing a corn snake and giving them a loving home. In the wild, corn snake lifespan is short since they often do not find an appropriate shelter and perish under predation and crisis of food and water. Does their lifespan improve in captivity? In this article we will explore exactly this and much more.

Corn Snake Lifespan: How Long Do They Usually Live?

Corn snakes face myriads of adversaries in their wild habitat. The trees and vegetation that they live in or climb up to find food sources are often lost due to deforestation or natural disasters. While crossing roads or living near human settlements, they often get attacked by animal and human predators. Therefore, in the wilderness they do not live longer than 6 to 8 years.

However, corn snakes are adored by some loving humans and often given a shelter within sanctuaries or home, where they get an unlimited supply of food, water and warmth. Within human supervision, they may live for 15 to 20 years, or longer! These beautiful sunny-hued corn snakes grow anywhere between 3 and 6 feet and may grow quite large and bulky.

Corn snakes have hundreds of morphs. Colors like white, blue, pink, black and lavender dance on the bodies of certain corn snake morphs that have been bred in captivity using various humane breeding systems. If taken care of well, these morphs may be endowed with the same lifespan and may grow to be as healthy looking and beautiful as their wild-type counterparts.

Corn Snake Lifespan: Factors That Affect Their Longevity

There are numerous factors that affect the lifespan of corn snakes, especially in the wild, availability of food and predation being two of the prominent ones. Let’s dig deeper.

Diet And Nutrition Can Affect Corn Snake Lifespan

Diet And Nutrition

You might have wondered time and again how unhatched snakelets survive inside the egg? When the eggs of a corn snake are still inside the mother’s uterus, the embryo gets their daily dose of oxygen and nutrition through the placental tissues that are connected to their mother. After the eggs are laid, the baby snakes feed on the egg yolk as the only nutrition source.

Corn snake mother abandons her eggs soon after laying them. Parenting is not something that gets the utmost priority in snake families. She makes sure that she lays her eggs in a warm and moist spot so that the babies can grow within appropriate conditions. The egg-shell is leathery and corn snake babies cut through the shell using their egg-tooth.

Snake babies are not your typical baby animal that is helpless without its parents. Snake hatchlings, including corn snake babies, are ruthless and have all the elements needed to survive in the harsh world. Juvenile corn snakes usually hunt down small mice, lizards, earthworms, insects, small amphibians, bird eggs, and fledglings.

Babies of corn snakes or juveniles can go without food for a week and can still continue strong. However, longer than that and lack of nutrition will certainly affect their growth. Like mammals, reptiles need their regular protein and fat intake, including vitamins and minerals for proper metabolism, and correct mental and physical growth.

What Do Corn Snakes Eat In Captivity?

Corn snakes in captivity, if taken care of well, could be compared to a child born with a silver spoon in its mouth. Let’s be honest– a corn snake that does not need to compete for food and does not need to worry about bigger animals attacking it, is a very lucky snake indeed.

What do snakes in captivity eat? Pretty much the same thing that they eat in the wild.

Hatchlings of corn snakes need to be fed a pinky mouse (frozen ones can be bought at stores) every 5 to 7 days. This is mainly because snakes take a long time to digest their food and get very slow during the swallowing and digestion process. Juveniles or young adults that are 18 to 36 inches, should be fed every 7-10 days. Adults are given food three times a month.

Could they be given any other sort of food besides the usual pinkies and fuzzies? Corn snakes, or any snake for that matter, primarily feed on rodents. But to add some more protein and minerals in their diet will not do them any harm. You can include mealworms and crickets, and little quail birds. They are pure carnivores, so fruits and veggies should be avoided.

Many people think that corn snakes are named so because they eat corn. No, that’s not the case at all. Corn snakes have corn-like markings on their belly that gave them this name. However, they are also called rat snakes. Corn snakes can be found slithering and hissing around granary storage sometimes, that may contain corn cobs, because rodents frequent those areas. Put two and two together and you will know why they are called rat snakes.

Temperature And Humidity Factor

Temperature And Humidity

Corn snakes live in the humid, subtropical climate of the southeastern United States. However, in certain states like New Jersey and Kentucky, it gets really cold between December and February. Mexico is pleasantly warm even in the winters, but people there experience very high temperatures in the summer. Does this temperature and humidity change affect snakes?

Definitely it does because snakes are ectothermic creatures. They are named so because they are cold-blooded creatures that cannot generate their own body temperature. Their body tempe- rature changes with the variations in their surroundings. As such, in the cold winter months and in the hot summer months, they tend to become slightly lethargic.

Corn snakes give up and retire for brumation during the freezing cold temperatures in some parts of North America. Brumation is just like hibernation, the difference being that while hibernating an animal relaxes in deep sleep, whereas in brumation a snake grows new skin and sheds its old skin. Temperature and humidity play a crucial role in a snake’s molting process.

In inappropriate conditions, the snake may not be able to shed their old skin properly which may result in skin infection or blindness. In the wild, an untreated skin infection blisters into some- thing horrendous and can even lead to fatality. Extreme temperature conditions make corn snakes more vulnerable to predators and compel them to go hungry for months.

Diseases And Injuries

In the wild, corn snakes that have been injured by a prey or predator, are at a high risk of having their bruises infected which in certain cases may be serious enough to end a snake’s life. How will you know if a corn snake is unwell? It will refuse to eat, will regurgitate, will stay coiled in a corner for days, will hiss at the slightest touch, among other alarming signs of trouble.

However, it must be noted though that corn snakes that are undergoing a shedding process or are deep within their breeding cycle, will refuse to eat too. Let’s take a look at some of the problems that a corn snake faces both in the wild and in captivity.

  • Scratches And Bruises: Wild corn snakes are always at high risk of getting preyed on by other animals, and even if the snake may be able to escape alive, it might be badly injured.
    Corn snakes have hundreds of morphs, and one of them, namely the scaleless morphs, are particularly prone to getting hurt by live rodents. This is because scaleless morphs have fewer scales on their body to protect themselves. Thankfully, scaleless corn snakes are rarely found in the wild. They are mainly captive-bred.
  • Blister Disease: Scratches and bruises that are left untreated may lead to something called a blister disease in snakes. However, in older corn snakes, ones that are older than 10 years, may suffer this disease out of old age. This is also known as “erosive pustular dermatitis” where pustules or blisters may form in certain areas of the skin with pus leakage.
    Other causes of blister disease include sun-damage and repetitive rubbing of the skin against a rough surface to subdue itchiness. If left like that, the pustules will eventually rupture and cause an open wound that can lead to further skin infections. This problem is quite common in autumn and winter especially. If you observe your pet corn snake rubbing its nose against enclosure walls or refusing to eat, getting it checked by a vet for blister disease would help.
  • Stomatitis: Jaw injury may result in stomatitis, also known as “mouth rotting”. These problems occur if the problem is neglected by the pet-keeper or if the snake lives in the wilderness. The broken jaw will soon lead to bacterial infestation that will affect the gums and mouth.
    Look for small bubbles or froth near the mouth of the snake which is a tell-tale sign of the problem. For this reason it is often recommended to feed small-sized prey to captive-snakes or else the swallowing action may lead to jaw injury.
  • Parasite Infestation: Parasites may pass from a live rodent to a snake. It can also pass from other animals in the house or the materials you may have used for the tank substrate and orna- mentation. Unsightly parasites breed near the snake’s eyes and mouth and under their scales.  They suck a snake’s blood, causing great distress to wild and captive snakes.
  • Poor Husbandry: Wild-type corn snakes face a lot of adversities when they lay eggs. It may rain and the place they may have laid their eggs get drowned in water. Or the snake may lay eggs in an extremely hot place because it could not find a vegetation covered spot. Excessive humidity and temperature will lead to the snakelets perishing before they can even hatch out.
    When corn snakes are being bred in captivity, the pet-keeper may not be experienced enough to provide suitable conditions to a gravid corn snake female. Failure to provide them a proper substrate for terrarium conditions may lead to egg-clumping at the cloacal opening of the mother snake which can lead to fatality of both the mother and her babies.
  • Respiratory Illness: Corn snakes may suffer issues in their lungs due to a prolonged exposure to wrong temperature and humidity conditions, or fumes like kitchen smoke or candle smells that are toxic for snakes. You may observe swelling on the insides of their mouth and may catch them breathing with their mouth open, if they have this illness.
  • Dysecdysis: An unusual shedding process of a snake can be termed as dysecdysis. This problem is also caused by inappropriate temperature and humidity conditions inside the reptile tank. This may cause skin infection and even blindness in the corn snake.
  • Genetic Condition: Corn snakes are inbred or hybridized for their positive traits like higher fertility or beautiful patterns. However, certain morphs like the amelanistic or albino corn snakes are usually quite sensitive to sunlight because they cannot produce melanin. Care should be taken while breeding or bringing them up.

Predators In The Wild

Corn snakes in the wilderness need to battle with various kinds of predators, primarily the nocturnal ones, like foxes, coyotes and owls. Smaller animals like bobcats, raccoons and weasels choose corn snakes as a part of their daily diet as well.

Corn snakes do possess some defense mechanisms. Owing to their orange and red colors, they closely resemble venomous snakes like copperheads and coral snakes. When predators take a look at corn snakes, they get fooled into thinking that the snake is venomous and find it wiser not to attack the snake. Corn snakes also hiss and bite, and rattle their tail-ends to intimidate predators.

Corn snakes in captivity are free from all predation and can sleep in peace. Without a doubt, this is the greatest advantage that captive corn snakes have over the wild-venturing ones. Absence of predators around them increases their lifespan by ten fold.

Habitat Loos of Corn Snake

Habitat Loss

Corn snakes are usually found in the southeastern and central parts of the United States. Slowinski’s corn snakes, one of the species of the Pantherophis genus, mainly forage and  explore in certain parts of Arkansas. The Great Plain rat snakes, another species, frequent the wilderness of the drier regions such as Missouri, Nebraska, Colorado, Texas and Mexico.

Urbanization often results in cutting down forests or filling up lakes and rivers. Such activities, though beneficial to humans, are detrimental to a large population of flora and fauna. Snakes are not safe from the claws of such adversaries. On top of that, many lands and vegetative growths drown in floods or get uprooted by strong winds, leading to habitat loss of snakes.

Habitat loss due to the above mentioned reasons may cause many corn snakes to lose their life and the lives of their babies. For this reason, many corn snakes have been spotted in the urban areas, near human settlements. Places like open fields, granaries, outbuildings like sheds and barns, gardens, and abandoned buildings, are often visited by these beautiful snakes.

Intrusion Of Other Kinds

Other than the reasons mentioned above, there are some other foes that corn snakes, especially the ones in the wild, have to battle on a day-to-day basis.

We have read how their resemblance to venomous snakes benefit them, however, it can also work negatively. They are often mistaken for being venomous and get executed or tortured by humans in different localities which is extremely unfair.

In captivity, corn snakes are often mishandled by inexperienced pet-keepers or commercial breeders who prioritize selling corn snake morphs over their well-being. Lifting corn snakes up by their tail or their head may cause bodily injury to the critter. Also poking and prodding them in order to identify their gender may result in bleeding and infertility.

Another innocent but harmful (to the corn snake) mistake that we make as pet-keepers is that we often use corn snakes or their morphs to present them to a large audience for educational or research purposes. Pet-keepers may also allow small children or their pet animals like cats and dogs to venture around the snake tank. This is highly damaging to the snake’s psyche.

Snakes should not be kept near television or music sets because they cannot tolerate loud noises. They should also be kept far away from windows and kitchens lest any toxic fumes reach them. Corn snakes are not your average mammalian friend who will roll over for you to be belly-scratched. Snakes are not very social and they love it when they are left alone.

Corn Snake Lifespan: Take Good Care Of Them!

Taking Good Care of Corn Snake to Increase Lifespan

Corn snakes are gentle creatures and make the best choice for pets for beginners. Having mentioned that though, adopt or purchase one from reputable breeders only who give more importance to the safety of snakes than making money out of them. Here we have listed some ways on how you can make your pet corn snake’s life highly enjoyable and relaxing.

Give Them Time To Get Used To You

Corn snakes take at least a couple of weeks to get used to your body scent. Before that, it is all hiss and bite! But no need to panic because research has shown that snakes are intelligent and can remember and learn from recurring events, or learn a lesson from a past mistake. However, they may not quite comprehend what their owner expects from them, ending up making mistakes, like biting your hand taking them as food when you intended to pet it lovingly.

Take Them Out To Smell The Roses

Don’t you think it is a great idea to pick your pet corn snake up one day, away from its terrarium, to some distant park or garden (or atleast to your backyard)? Except for albino corn snake morphs, other corn snakes would love the sunlight and bask in the relaxing sounds of nature.

Give Them A Large And Relaxing Home

A corn snake terrarium size should be at least one-third the length of the snake’s body so that the snake can stretch and move around. A 10-gallon tank is great for a hatchling, and a 30-40 gallon tank should be provided to young adults and adults. Glass vivariums are a little costly, so you can opt for wooden or plastic ones. A screened or meshed lid on the top would be wise.

Comfortable Environment

Make Them Feel Comfortable

The three most important factors that you must ensure before housing a corn snake is humidity, temperature and lighting. Let’s take a closer look at every aspect carefully.

  • Heating: Snakes are ectothermic and their body temperature changes with the external temperature. For optimal thermoregulation, the basking zone must be between 85 and 90°F, and the cool side should be within the range of 75 to 80°F. At night a drop of 10 to 15°F is advisable. Temperature should be kept low during winter brumation. Some pet-keepers use hot rocks to provide heat, but they should be avoided since they may scald the snake’s skin.
  • Lighting: The snake should be able to hide and bask whenever it wants. Including UVB lighting systems and setting timers to them would be the best thing to do. Snakes have a sleep cycle and lighting plays a part in regulating it.
  • Humidity: Place a large water bowl deep enough for the snake to bathe in. Let them slurp up water using their tongue and absorb humidity from the vapors. However, please keep the water bowl clean at all times. You can also soak sphagnum moss and scatter it around the terrarium.  A 40-60% humidity is perfect, but raise it to 70% during molting times.
Mimic The Natural Habitat Of A Corn Snake

The components of the substrate layer in the tank should be chosen wisely. Simple, organic and moisture-retaining items like cypress mulch, leaf litter or coconut fiber make excellent choices. The substrate should be quite thick so that your corn snake can burrow in it whenever it wants. Also choose ornaments like plants, logs of wood, and caves to mimic a forest.

Set A Routine For Sleepy And Wakey Times

Wild animals, even the corn snake morphs, have an astounding sleep-wake cycle. They are highly disciplined and would like to keep it like that. Make sure that the lighting system provides

12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness to mimic day and night.

Do snakes sleep? Yes, in fact, they sleep for 16 to 22 hours per day. They do not have eyelids so they sleep with their eyes open, a little creepy but this is how it is. Corn snakes are usually nocturnal so they sleep in the daytime, and raise havoc at night.

Give A Separate Home To Each Snake

Corn snakes are ophiophagous, meaning they eat other snakes. Hatchlings could be kept together in a tank. However, young adults and adults better be kept separately in different tanks. This also prevents unnecessary competition among themselves.

Keep Their Home Clean At All Times

Reptile tank cleaners can be purchased from retail stores and also online. Keep one handy at all times to get rid of feces, sheddings, uneaten foods, and other debris from the tank. Snakes could be bathed in lukewarm water to get rid of parasites or mites but with the guidance of a vet

Take Them To The Vet When They Feel Sick

Proper medical attention to your pet corn snake is pivotal. They should be taken to the vet at least once a month to check for parasites and any other infection. Emergency visits could cost you a bit more but will save your precious pet’s life. Snakes that are 10 years or older should be taken to the vet regularly because they are particularly susceptible to infections.


Before you think about bringing a corn snake home, you should know about all the aspects of its life to keep it happy and healthy. The following FAQs will help you.

Q: How long do scaleless corn snakes live?

Ans: At the correct temperature and humidity, scaleless corn snakes will thrive for 15 to 20 years. Regular vet checkup would be necessary.

Q: Do albino corn snakes suffer?

Ans: Albino corn snakes do not suffer, as may be presumed mistakenly. They are just like any other corn snake morph. However, their eyes are more light-sensitive.

Q: Do corn snakes get depressed if the owner does not spend time with them?

Ans: No, snakes, in general, are not very social and like it best when they are left alone. Corn snakes are quite shy, and usually escape when approached. They cannot be taught any special tricks since their brain has a simpler structure than that of a cat or a dog.  However, they are quite docile and behave well when handled by the owner or the main handler.

Q: How do you handle a corn snake?

Ans: Hold them underneath the head, and use the other hand to hold another part of their body, and keep alternating as they slide and wriggle on your arms. Avoid lifting them up using their tail. Keep the handling sessions limited to 10 minutes.


So do corn snakes have a longer life span in the wild or in captivity? Definitely, corn snake lifespan is much longer when taken care of in a controlled environment. There are numerous factors that affect their lifespan, and some have been explored in this article.

There are hundreds of corn snake morphs and some snake-enthusiasts worry that scaleless corn snakes or albino corn snakes do not live as long. This is not true. They thrive just as long as other corn snakes do. They are beautiful and gentle creatures and deserve a loving home where they will get all the comfort and warmth.

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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