Corn snakes are one of the most popular pet snakes available.
A common question among new keepers is “do corn snakes bite?”
Generally speaking the answer is “no” – corn snakes rarely bite.
However they are capable of biting and there are instances where a bite may become more likely.
In this article we’ll look at corn snake temperament and discuss how friendly they really are as pets.
Are Corn Snakes Friendly?
In many ways, corn snakes are ideal pet snakes.
They’re attractive and there are a whole load of different morphs available giving a huge range of choices.
They only reach a modest size as adults, meaning you don’t need an overly large vivarium.
And of course they also tend to have nice temperaments.
Whether you could describe any pet snake as “friendly” is a matter for debate, but what we can say is that corn snakes very rarely bite and tend to be quite docile with their owners.
Unlike some other snake species, which can be quite aggressive as hatchlings, even young corn snakes tend to be quite friendly. This trait is normally retained through into adulthood, where they are one of the better options for people who want a snake they can handle.
It is important to note that every snake is an individual. I have owned one corn snake that wouldn’t let me go anywhere near it no matter how hard I tried. It would hiss and strike whenever the cage was open.
So while the above advice holds true for 99% of corn snakes, there will always be the odd one that hasn’t read the manual.
If you’re buying a corn snake as a pet I would highly encourage you to try holding any snake you’re thinking of buying. In this way you can verify it’s personality.
In terms of wild snakes, my suggestion would be just leave the snake alone. Not only is this the kindest thing for the snake, but it also avoids you trying to pick up that one snake that woke up in a bad mood that day.
What Makes Corn Snakes Bite?
While corn snakes are known to be quite docile there are still situations in which you’re more likely to get bitten. It is worth bearing these in mind to avoid any unnecessary risk.
Any snake may try to bite if it feels threatened. This is only natural. If you or I were grabbed by a much larger animal we’d probably do anything necessary to try and escape. Suddenly grabbing a corn snake – even a friendly one – may have a similar impact.
It can take time for any snake to get used to handling, and even then you are advised to approach the snake slowly and gently so that it isn’t seen as an aggressive attack.
Hungry snakes can sometimes strike at you, assuming you’re food. This is particularly likely if you smell of rodents. In other words pay extra attention when it gets close to feeding day to avoid a mix-up like this.
Some snakes can get grumpy when they’re coming up to moult. If you notice that your snake looks lighter in color, or it’s eyes have gone cloudy, then this is a sign that your snake is going to moult very soon indeed. I suggest leaving a snake like this alone so they can moult in peace.
Do Corn Snakes Have Teeth?
Corn snakes do indeed have teeth. While a corn snake’s teeth are reasonably small, they are razor sharp, as they have evolved to hold on to rodents that the snake has caught. You’ll certainly feel it if you get bitten – so it’s best to avoid the situation if possible.
Another downside to getting bitten is really how much it can take you by surprise. You’ll feel the adrenaline rush afterward as your nerves start to calm down again!
Are Corn Snakes Venomous?
Corn snakes are not venomous. They are “constrictors” which means that they grab their prey in their mouth, then coil around the animal slowly suffocating it. Once dead it is then eaten.
This means that your life isn’t in danger if you’re bitten by a corn snake. All the same, if you are unlucky enough to get bitten then be sure to treat the wound properly. If in any doubt, seek professional medical advice.
What Happens if a Corn Snake Bites You?
There are two kinds of bites that snakes offer. The first is a quick “strike-and-recoil” where it’s all over before you know it and you’re just left with a few painful pin-pricks and a bruised ego.
The other is a more sustained “strike-and-hold” where the snake remains latched onto you. This can be rather worse as you need to extricate yourself from the snake’s mouth. Corn snake teeth point backward – so pulling away rarely works. Instead, most experts recommend either (a) waiting it out till the snake gets bored and lets go naturally or (b) pushing into the snake’s mouth so the teeth can unhook.
In my experience of corn snake bites, however, the recoil is most likely. Under these circumstances start by ensuring the snake is safe. Place it back into its vivarium and secure the lid. Then look after your own bite.
Generally speaking a bite from such a small snake is neither painful nor dangerous. It’ll normally feel just like multiple pinpricks – like you’d had a load of injections at the same time. Hardly the worst thing you’ve ever felt.
Depending on the size of the snake there’s likely to be a little blood, but this soon stops running.
I’d suggest sterilizing the wound just to be safe, and then covering it until it has healed. You may want to consider some ibuprofen to help control any short-term swelling afterward.
If you have any concerns at all then it is wise to seek medical advice.
Do Corn Snakes Like Being Handled?
No snake likes to be handled, but corn snakes are usually one of the more “accepting” snakes. As a result, they’re a popular choice among reptile keepers who want a snake they can hold.
The key is to either select a snake that has already got used to human contact or to gently ease your new snake into being held. With patience most corn snakes will adapt to being held without too much difficulty.
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