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Elaphe guttata

Origin: North America
Family: Colubridae

Through captive breeding over many generations several colour forms are now recognised, the colouration is just cosmetic and the care is the same. Wild collected corn snakes are no longer imported (or at least not to my knowledge), most first time snake keepers will start with a baby corn snake a very good choice.

Corn snakes are normally very placid, don’t get too large, and don’t mind being handled, thus make for a good pets species. First time snake keepers will normally start with a hatchling corn snake, about 2+ months old. At this age the snake will be taking defrosted pink mice. Baby corn snakes are generally good feeders, however make sure before you buy a corn snake it is a defrost feeder, and has regularly fed. I would recommend that you watch the snake feed before you take it home. Most reputable shops will be happy to do this, most shop will feed all there snakes on one or two days so be prepared to go back to the shop at a later date.

The following guidelines are based on a hatchling corn snake housed in a “desert den” type starter kit commonly sold at reptile shops. These kit when incorporating the correct items make a good choice for first time keepers, these “kits” are sold as starter kits and you will need to upgrade to a wooden or glass vivarium in about 9 – 12 months.

DO NOT place your cage in direct sunlight, draughts, next to heaters including radiators, or places of constant disturbance i.e. hallways. Place the heat mat underneath the desert den (on the outside) covering one half of the cage. This is necessary as like all reptiles snakes are cold blooded and need to regulate their own temperature. They do this by visiting warm and cool areas. By covering one half of the cage you will create a “hot” and “cool” area for your snake to visit. Over time heat mats may discolour some surfaces so it is advisable to use some form of insulation barrier i.e. polystyrene, or cardboard between your table etc and the heat mat.

Use enough substrate to cover the cage to depth of about 2cm (1/2 inch) any more than this will act as an insulator and could cause the bottom of the cage to over heat. The substrate should be cleaned every 3-4 weeks and the whole cage washed in warm water and a recommended reptile cage cleaning product. DO NOT use household bleach etc.

A hide should be placed in the middle of your cage so your snake can choose to rest in both the “cool” and “hot” area.

The water dish should always be placed in the “cool” end (i.e. not on top of the heat mat). The water should be changed daily.

Feeding your snake for the first time should be done a few days after you have had it, this will give it time to settle in its new home. You should feed your snake one or two pink mice one after the other every 5-7 days, these should be offered on tweezers. Defrosting mice is very easy and can be done by allowing them to thaw in a dish for a few hours; you can also defrost them in warm water (not hot). Make sure the pinky is completely defrosted before you offer it to your snake. Remember as your snake grows it will require larger food the next stage up are called fuzzies and your snake should be progressed to these in about 3-6 months depending on how often you feed your snake. Ask your dealer when to upgrade the food.

DON’T feed your snake when it is shedding. You can tell when it is in a shed, as its eyes will become opaque. This process is necessary for your snake to grow and repair any damaged scales. The whole process will last between 3-4 days starting with cloudy eyes, which turn almost silver over a few days, then the eyes will appear normal again shortly after your snake will shed its full skin. During these few days a light spray with tepid water is required to help loosen the old skin. Snakes usually shed at night when you find the skin remove it and make sure it is whole. Any remaining pieces of old skin on your snake should be removed carefully after soaking your snake in tepid water, these should come off easily. If you find that the eye spectacles are missing from the shed these will have to be removed, if you don’t feel that you can do this ask your local dealer for advice, many will be happy to do this for you or consult a reptile vet. It is not recommended to handle your snake on the day it is due to be fed or for two days after it has been fed as this can cause regurgitation

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