Red Cornsnake
Pantherophis guttatus

** Harmless **

Common Name:

Red Cornsnake

Scientific Name:

Pantherophis guttatus





guttatus is derived from the Latin word gutta which means "dappled" or "spotted" referring to the dorsal pattern.

Vernacular Names:

Beech snake, bead snake, brown sedge snake, chicken snake, fox snake, house king snake, mole catcher, mouse snake, pine snake, red rat snake, red chicken snake, spotted snake, spotted racer, spotted viper.

Average Length:

30 - 48 in. (76 - 122 cm)

Virginia Record Length:

56.7 in. (144.4 cm)

Record length:

72 in. (182.9 cm)

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: This species is 9-60 inches long *1014*. Adults usually range from 30 to 60 inches in length *11523*. It is red or orange colored, subject to individual variation in color. Upland specimens tend strongly to browns. Dorsal spots and blotches are outlined with black and the first blotch on neck is divided into 2 branches that extend forward and meet in a spearpoint between the eyes. The belly is whitish, strongly checkered or cross-banded with black. The underside of the tail is striped and the scales are weakly keeled *882*. The longevity record for this species is 32 years and 3 months *11523*. Outside Virginia the known maximum length is 72 inches *11523*. In Virginia, maximum known SVL is 1245 mm (49.0 in.) and maximum total length 1440 mm (56.7 in.). Tail length/total length averages 15.0+/-1.5% (11.1-17.6, n=45). Scutellation: ventrals 201-229 (avg. = 215.5+/-5.8, n=60); subcaudals 52-71 (avg. = 62.3+/-4.3, n=54); ventrals + subcaudals 263-291 (avg. = 277.7+/-6.4, n=54); dorsal scales weakly keeled or smooth; scale rows at midbody usually 27 (60.4%, n=53), but may be 23-29 (39.6%); anal plate divided; infralabials 11-11 (62.9%, n=62), other combinations of 9-12 (37.1%); supralabials 8-8 (95.2%, n=62) and other combinations of 7-9 (4.8%); loreal present; preoculars 1-1; postoculars 2-2; temporals usually 2+3/2+3 (71.2%, n=59) and other combinations of 1-4 (28.8%).

COLORATION and PATTERN: series of 27-41 (avg. = 31.8+/-2.0, n=56) reddish to chestnut blotches on dorsum of the body and 8-14 (avg. = 10.9+/-1.5, n=33) blotches on the tail, each surrounded by black; blotches squarish, except those anteriorly which are somewhat elongated and have anterior and posterior projections at the corners; irregular series of smaller, less well-defined, blotches on the side may be present; background color reddish orange to gray; head and anterior neck possess a pair of longitudinal blotches connected at the dorsum of the head to form a spear-point pattern with the apex anterior to or level with the eyes; reddish eye-jaw stripe edged in black continues onto the neck; labial scales white and edged in black; venter of body strongly patterned with black and white checkerboard design; two black stripes on venter of the tail. In preservative, reddish colors fade into brown. The firm, muscular body is shaped like a broadleaf in cross-section, flat on the venter.*10760*

SEXUAL DIMORPHISM: Adult male P. guttata (869.8+/-155.8 mm SVL, 525-1245, n=32) are similar to females (868.0+/-108.5 mm SVL, 680-1041, n=17) in body size, but males reach a longer total length (1440 mm) than females (1114 mm). Sexual dimorphism index is 1.00. Average tail length/total length ratio is slightly higher in males (15.2+/-1.5%, 11.1-17.6, n=28) than in females (14.5+/-1.3, 12.1-16.7, n=17). Females possess a higher average number of ventral scales (219.0+/-6.2, 201-229, n=21) than males (213.6+/-4.7, 205-223, n=39), but fewer average number of subcaudals (females 52-69, avg. = 60.3+/-4.1, n=19); males 54-71, avg. = 276.9+/-6.2), n=35); females 266-291, avg. = 279.4, n=19) and number of average dorsal body blotches (males 31.8+/-2.9, 27-41, n=38; females 31.9+/-3.1, 27-37, n=18) are not sexually dimorphic.*10760*

JUVENILES: Juveniles are patterned as adults but often have chocolate brown to dark chocolate blotches on a gray to reddish orange body. Hatchlings from Virginia averaged 267.0+/-29.4 mm SVL (204-291, n=7), 296.6+/-32.7 mm total length (229-335, n=10), and weighed 7.8-8.3 g (avg = 7.97+/-0.19, n=6). *10760* Confusing Species: this species may be confused with Lampropeltis calligaster and L. triangulum, especially the mountain form of the latter. Both of these species have a short eye-jaw stripe that does not extend beyond the mouth and neither have anterior blotches with anterior-posterior projections. Corn snakes are often mistaken for copperheads (Agkistrodon contortrix), but the latter has hourglass-shaped crossbands and lack the strong checkerboard pattern on the venter.*10760* Geographic Variation: The background body color is more often gray in P. guttata from the mountains and upper Piedmont than in the eastern Piedmont and Coastal Plain where it is reddish brown and orange with some gray.*10760*

REPRODUCTION: There are 3-27 eggs/clutch *946*. They are layed in July and August *1014*. The hatchlings are 320 mm long *946*. It emerges from hiber- nation in late March or April, but can come up to 'sun' earlier in the season *858*. Known egg-laying dates in Va. are between 18 June and 9 July. Eggs average 30-61 x 13-26 mm in size. Length of incubation is 61-80 days, depending on the temperature of incubation. Known hatching dates are between 22 August and 27 September.*10760*

BEHAVIOR: This species is arboreal and is called the corn snake due to its habit of frequenting corn cribs *1102*. It is also a constrictor *1013*. Corn snakes are seldom seen because they are fossorial. They are solitary animals and have not been found in aggregations. These 2 reasons are why the population ecology of the species has not been studied. They are unaggressive and will seldom bite.*10760*

References for Life History

  • 882 - Conant, R., 1958, A field guide to reptiles and amphibians of the United States and Canada east of the 100th Meridian, 366 pgs., Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, MA
  • 946 - Stansbery, D.H., 1966, Observations on the habitat and distrubution of Cumberlandia monodonta (Say 1829), Ann. Rep. Am. Malacol. Union, pg. 29-30
  • 1013 - Jackson, J.J., 1983, Snakes of the Northeastern United States, 111 pgs., Ext. Serv., Univ. of GA, Athens, GA
  • 1014 - Martof, B.S., Palmer, W.M., Bailey, J.R., Harrison, III J.R., 1980, Amphibians and Reptiles of the Carolinas and Virginia, 264 pgs., UNC Press, Chapel Hill, NC
  • 10760 - Mitchell, J. C., 1994, The Reptiles of Virginia, 352 pgs., Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC
  • 11523 - Thorp, T.J., 2001, Personal Communication, Expert Review for GAP Analysis Project, Three Lakes Nature Center and Aquarium


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Virginia is home to 28 species of frogs and toads.


We have a large diversity of salamanders consisting of 56 different species and subspecies.


Virginia is home to 9 native lizard species and two introduced species, the Mediterranean Gecko and the Italian Wall Lizard.


The Commonwealth is home to 34 species and subspecies of snake. Only 3 species are venomous.


Virginia has 25 species and subspecies of turtle. Five of these species are sea turtle.