Do Corn Snakes Bite

Do Corn Snakes Bite: A Guide To Why They Bite, Prevention And Cure

Corn snakes are one of the most mild-mannered creatures in the serpentine world. They could be up to 6 feet long, and may even look ferocious to some, but they are docile, keep to themselves, and rather secretive. With orange, red, yellow morphs, these sweet, non-venomous creatures are quite popular among pet lovers who have not dealt with snakes previously.

Do corn snakes bite? Biting is an instinctive activity among snakes, it is as if they cannot be themselves unless they bite a thing or two on a daily basis. The thing to look out for is whether the snake in question is a venomous one. If it is non-venomous, there is actually nothing to worry about. To know more about these North American snakes, let’s dig in deeper!

Peeping Into The Secretive And Mysterious Life Of Corn Snakes

Mysterious Life Of Corn Snakes

Source: @ambrathecornsnake

Corn snakes, bearing the scientific name Pantherophis guttatus, are colubrid snakes that are non-venomous and kill their prey using constriction methods. They are also known by the name rat snakes, and are often confused with the venomous copperhead and attacked as a result. Corn snakes are usually yellow, orange or red with patterns of different colors running across.

They have such a name because the stripes on their body seem to divide the elongated structure into rectangular segments that resemble corn kernels. These snakes, due to their non-venomous quality and docile nature, are quite popular as pets. They are usually between 2 feet and 5 feet in length, barely ever reaching or exceeding 6 feet, and can live for 20-30 years.

Fields, trees, flatwoods and forest openings are corn snake’s habitat in the rural areas, whereas in the urban areas they could be found in farmlands, gardens and being domesticated in people’s houses. During winter they brumate or shed their skin, and thus remain fairly inactive, hiding in nooks and crannies. During summer, they bask in the sun’s heat.

Do Corn Snakes Bite If They Are Non-Venomous Constrictors?

Corn snakes will bite, that’s for sure, but they will do that to defend themselves if they ever feel threatened. They are non-venomous so worrying about corn snake bites is not necessary. Non-venomous snakes do not possess large fangs. They have small, even-shaped, brittle teeth that cannot cause any significant injury or pain, especially to humans.

Digestive System of Corn Snakes: A Journey Through Their Mouth To The End Of The Digestive Canal

Digestive System of Corn Snakes

Source: @house_of_oyen

In order to fully understand why corn snakes bite and if you should be worried in case you have been bitten, you should at first understand and appreciate the digestive system and dietary preferences of these gentle corn snakes. You should take a look at the number and type of teeth that these snakes have before getting overboard in fear. Let’s jump right into the snake’s mouth!

Jaw: Yes, you have seen the right thing– snakes can produce a gape larger than expected. Large, venomous snakes can widen the gape large enough to swallow a whole pig or deer! Corn snakes, being smaller and non-venomous, can swallow small and medium-sized rodents whole. The secret lies in the jaw of snakes, or more specifically, in the lower mandibles.

The lower mandible is loosely connected to the back of the skull by a stretchy ligament that allows greater and side-to-side movement. The ligament not only allows the jaws to be opened wide, but it also helps push the food inside the mouth. Swallowing and digesting is a rather slow process, and due to higher vulnerability, they do not like to be disturbed during these times.

Teeth: Do corn snakes have teeth? Yes, as a matter of fact, they do. They have 20 to 30 teeth in total, with more teeth in the upper jaw than in the lower jaw. The teeth are set in rows, 4 rows in the upper jaw, and 2 rows in the lower jaw. The teeth are not large at all. In fact, the teeth are so tiny there are almost unsightly. They are needle-like thus sharp, and there are fangs present.

The teeth are basically used by the corn snakes to lock the prey in position so that they cannot escape. The teeth are angled backwards to latch strongly to the prey. Their teeth are so fragile and brittle that sometimes they lose one or two teeth during the feeding process. However, the lost teeth are soon replaced by new ones.

The kind of teeth that corn snakes have are called aglyphous teeth. North American King Snake and Boa Constrictors have similar teeth as well. The mouths of snakes are colonized by a wide array of microorganisms including many species of bacteria. Inside the mouth there are glands that moisten the prey so that it can be swallowed easily.

Digestive system: The food from the mouth then travels to the esophagus or food-pipe. In snakes the food-pipe is very long and can cover half the length of their body. The food-pipe has specialized folds in the lining that allow snakes to do what they do best, that is, swallow prey whole. Peristaltic movement allows food to be passed along the digestive tract to the stomach.

The stomach in snakes is a J-shaped organ. Digestive enzymes and gastric juices are released here that digest proteins. The food then passes to the small intestines where fats and carbohydrate digestion takes place with the help of the juices secreted by the liver and pancreas. The undigested parts of the food travels to the large intestine and finally to the cloacal chamber, where feces and urine are stored for removal.

Diet And Hunting Tactics Of Corn Snakes

Diet And Hunting Tactics Of Corn Snakes

Source: @simospider82

Corn snakes are small sized snakes reaching up to 6 feet in length, weighing between 1 and 3 pounds. They have a rather limited appetite with small to medium sized rodents, mice in particular, as their favorite food. Beef, pork, veggies, and roaches are actually not liked by the corn snakes, contrary to what most might think. They do not like fish that much either.

They bite their prey first to grasp it so that they cannot escape, all the while constricting the prey by coiling its heavy body around the prey’s body, making it suffocate. When the prey is fully incapacitated, the jaw gape slowly opens wide, pushing the prey to the back of the throat. Adult corn snakes should be fed medium sized mice once every week, or once every two weeks.

Are Corn Snake Bites Dangerous And Painful?

Corn snakes are admired far and wide for their social temperament. They make amazing pets, especially to those who really want to rear a snake but have not dealt with them earlier. Do corn snake bites hurt? Their bites are non-venomous and their jaws do not exert that much pressure. As a result, the bites hurt as much as a pin prick or a cat scratch would.

Corn snakes are colubrids. Colubridae snake bites are not toxin-induced because they do not kill their prey by pushing poison into their tissues. They have a different hunting tactic– they constrict and suffocate the prey. Evolution has resulted in their teeth being tiny and almost brittle which do not have the potential to tear flesh.

It is the shock or the psychological trauma that a person receives is what worries people. Just the thought of a snake’s head latching onto a person’s hand and not letting go will scare anybody! So the bottom line is, corn snakes do bite but the bites do not hurt significantly. A little bit of bleeding may occur but as the snake is not poisonous, you need not worry about it.

Reasons Why Corns Snakes Bite

As corn snakes are typically docile and gentle, they bite only when there is a very good reason. Let’s take a closer look at some of these reasons as to what incurs the wrath of this creature.

Stress and Discomfort Is One of The Reason for Biting

Source: @quartzcornsnakes

Stress and Discomfort

A snake’s life has some highly uncomfortable, laborious, and time-consuming moments. Take the time when it molts, for instance. There had been an occasion where upon the insistence of customers, a pet keeper had to interrupt a corn snake while it was shedding its old skin. The snake became so furious that it bit the man in his face, but no injury was incurred.

Stress and discomfort may also have derived from the pet store or the previous owner, where it probably underwent mistreatment. Prolonged stress may turn snakes into aggressive creatures. A stressed-out corn snake may bite for no reason at all.

Other times when one must not disturb corn snakes at all are when they are eating and digesting. These two activities are laborious and tedious for snakes of all times. We should refrain from touching them during these times. Other than these, loud noises, and repetitive temperature and humidity fluctuations within the tanker may also vex corn snakes.

Hunger And Health Issues

At times, young adult corn snakes, that have not been fed in a long time, may strike when the pet keeper tries to hold him. Under human supervision, hatchlings of corn snakes could be fed one pinky mouse every 5 days, whereas juveniles could be given one fuzzy mouse (slightly bigger than a pinky mouse) every 7 to 10 days. Adult corn snakes are fed large food pieces, or large mice, every 14 to 21 days. Pinky and fuzzy mice are available in stores in a frozen form.

Health issues are another warning indication that they could be in a really bad mood and may strike when petted or held. Pink coloration underneath their skin is a tell-tale sign of a bacterial infection in a snake. Loss of weight and the showing of their vertebral column is another sign that your pet corn snake is suffering and needs veterinary attention immediately.

Sudden Movement

Whenever corn snakes get startled, there is a high chance that they will bite as a reflex action. It may get unpleasantly surprised when it comes in the vicinity of someone it has never met before. It may also strike while you are cleaning the tank or while you are feeding it. Corn snakes tend to bite anything that moves other than itself, thinking it is food or is a threat.

What To Do If A Corn Snake Bites: How To Treat The Bites?

Treatment of Corn Snake Bites

Source: @kerokeroreject

What happens when a corn snake bites? If a baby corn snake bites you, all you will feel is a minor discomfort or the feeling that someone or something tapped you forcefully on your hands.

The teeth of hatchlings or juveniles are barely visible, they are not sharp at all, and their jaws are incapable of applying significant pressure. They mainly bite out of surprise because they do need time to get used to the worldly surroundings.

Does it bleed when a corn snake bites? The teeth of adult corn snakes are small and slightly pointed, with their jaws capable of imposing a higher pressure on the flesh of the target. Tooth marks may be left on your skin after they have stopped biting, and a little bleeding may occur.

Teeth of corn snakes contain bacteria and other germs and they may also carry salmonella on their skin. When you are handling them, you can wear gloves. After the accident, you are advised to wash your hands thoroughly with antiseptics. Below are some steps you can implement if you ever get bitten by a corn snake.

Stay Calm

If a corn snake bites you, the first thing you should remember is to stay calm. Under no condition should you try to yank the latched snake off your hands because doing so will make the snake even more aggravated and might impose even more pressure on your skin.

Refrain from shouting loudly, or moving your hands frantically, or throwing things at it. Such a reaction will prove to be counteractive. Instead, let the snake calm down too and leave you naturally without having to apply any force.

Detach The Snake

If, out of panic, you try to unlatch the snake’s head forcibly, by holding its head and yanking it off or trying to pull your hand away from its grasp, you might hurt yourself. The snake’s backward facing teeth, which look like barbs, will sink deeper into your skin and as you pull or push, the skin might tear. As a result you will suffer some bruises, accompanied by a little bleeding.

Instead, try dripping some ice cold water on the head of the snake. You can also try placing a few drops of vodka or whisky on the snake’s body because the liquid seems to penetrate through the skin of the reptile and they hate it. If that does not work, tell someone to get a tweezer or a pencil to pry open the closed mouth of the snake.

Wash With Cold Water

After you have detached the snake, wash your hands or the bitten area with cold water or running tap water. This will wash off any bacteria and will reduce swelling, if any. Also cold water running on your skin will make you feel relaxed and comfortable. Use an antiseptic soap for washing the bitten area. Make the bitten area completely dry with a clean towel.

Additionally, you can apply 70% alcohol with a cotton swab to clean the bitten area further. Check to see if any tooth of the corn snake is attached to your skin. If you suspect any signs of infection a few hours or days later, you should visit a doctor.

Get First Aid

If you want to wait for a few days before visiting the doctor, you may bandage the bitten area if the cut is deep. If the cut is superficial, akin to a minor bruise, cover it with a band aid.

How To Prevent Corn Snake Bites: Prevention Is Always Better

Why not stop the corn snake in their tracks, so that they do not feel provoked to bite humans in the first place? They need a lot of “alone” time because they are quite solitary by nature. Giving them space so that they can just exist in their tank or habitat, is the best way we can prevent any accident from happening. Let’s read a few Do’s about handling these lovely creatures.

Maintain Proper Temperature And Humidity

Corn snakes like to live in a 30 to 40 gallon tank with well-controlled temperature and moisture levels, measured by thermometer and hygrometer attached at either end of the tanker. The average temperature should be 29 degrees Celsius, and the moisture levels need to be as close to 50% as possible.

As they are reptiles, their body temperature changes with fluctuations in temperature in the environment. Therefore, it is crucial that you ensure proper maintenance.

Handle Corn Snake Carefully

Source: @simonefang17

Handle Carefully

After bringing a corn snake home from the pet store, give it at least 1 to 2 weeks to get to know you better. Learn appropriate snake handling techniques such as the ones below:

  • At the first few times of interacting with your corn snake, do not touch it, instead let it slide over your hands and body. Let it know you first.
  • Refrain from making any noise. You can whisper sweet words but that’s about it.
  • Give space to the snake when it is shedding, mating, eating, and digesting.
  • Wash your hands before touching it.
  • If they vibrate tails, hiss, defecate, vomit, simply, leave it alone.

Interesting Facts About Corn Snakes

  • The species name of corn snakes is “guttata”, deriving from the Latin word “gutta”, meaning “spotted or dappled” referring to the blotches on the snake’s back.
  • Contrary to popular belief, corn snakes are mostly nocturnal, that means they stay the most active at night, especially during the summers.
  • They are quite secretive in nature, mostly hiding under rocks, fallen logs and broken tree barks. Overgrown fields and abandoned buildings are thus their favorite hiding places.
  • The number of species of corn snakes is debatably only one or two, but due to hybridization, corn snakes exist in more than 800 different color morphs!


Do corn snakes bite? Yes, they do bite humans but only when they feel threatened or vexed. During their molting and breeding season, if they are left undisturbed, it would be best for both the parties. Eating and digesting large prey whole is a tedious and time-consuming process for them. During these times also, a corn snake should be left alone.

They are non-venomous, with little, needle-like teeth that are sharp but cause only minor cuts and bruises. Corn snakes do not have fangs because their feeding techniques and their dietary preferences do not require them to have fangs. There are certain handling tactics that a pet keeper must know before starting to rear a corn snake. Corn snakes are beautiful and should be handled with love and care.

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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