Red Rat or Corn Snake
Range: South Eastern United States
Habitat: Highly variable habitat. Prefers living near source of fresh water.
Natural Diet: Small mammals, birds
Diet at RainForest: Small pre-killed rodents
RainForest Facts: A medium sized constrictor, the Red rat or Corn snake belongs to one of the largest snake families on earth, the colubrids. Several rat snake relatives live in the United States, the range of the corn, or red rat snake, overlaps the black rat snake in Tennessee.
Their belly has a black and white checkerboard pattern that resembles Indian corn; for this reason, this type of snake is often called a corn snake.
The Red rat, or Corn Snake is a frequently seen visitor to many rural farm settings. This highly adaptable snake is a voracious consumer of rodents often found in the rural farm setting. An adept climber, the Corn snake will climb vertically up tree trunks to gain access to the bird nests found there. The color pattern of corn snakes is highly variable based on geographical location.
Due to their reddish-orange coloration, Corn Snakes are often killed because people mistake them for the copperhead, a venomous species found in much of the Corn Snakes natural range. Corn Snakes, as well as copperheads, are actually beneficial predators of rodents and in turn are important food items for many other animals.
If disturbed in the wild they often strike repeatedly at the intruder while vibrating their tail. In dry leaves, the vibrating of the tail may resemble the buzz of a rattlesnake, fooling some predators in to leaving them alone.
Unfortunately this same buzzing often convinces people they have encountered a Rattlesnake resulting in the unwarranted death of many a Corn Snake. Corn Snakes prefer habitats such as overgrown fields, forest openings, and abandoned or seldom used buildings where their favorite food of mice and other small rodents is abundant. This species adapts quite well to human farming areas.
Female Corn snakes lay up to 20 eggs per clutch, the average is 12. 60-75 days of incubation produces hatchlings capable of eating new born mice. In captivity this and other species of North American colubrids are allowed to cool down in the winter months, often to temperatures in the 50's. This cooling period actually triggers the breeding response when the animals are warmed back up to 80-85 degrees.
One of the most frequently kept pet snakes the corn snake adapts quite well to life in captivity. Literally tens of thousands are hatched annually in a kaleidoscope of colors.
Status in Wild: Declining numbers due to over collection, primarily for the pet trade, as well as habitat destruction. Automobiles also account for a high rate of mortality as the corn snake crosses roads. One of the most common times of year for the corn snake to come into contact with roads is the spring when both males and females are moving about.
When left undisturbed the corn snake will easily become a farmers best friend. The entire rat snake family are outstanding hunters capable of adapting to agricultural structures where the hunting for rodents is most likely to occur.