Keeping Corn Snakes as Pets
Corn snakes, unlike other snakes have a docile temperament. Found extensively in corn fields, they are farmers' friends as they help in getting rid of pesky rodents like mice and rats. So before going for the idea of corn snakes as pets, you really need to be sure of the difference between taming a reptile and taming other animals. Snakes are sensitive creatures and identify danger out of fear combined with ignorance. A corn snake is no different. Also this particular snake can live up to 20 years and more with proper corn snake care. So first inquire all the details about your pet-to-be, from an authentic pet store. Once, you have decided to buy a corn snake as pet, get to know what all will be required for housing your pet.
Considering Pet Quality
A normal corn snake can grow up to 6 feet long and can live as long as 20 years. So when you decide on buying corn snakes as pets, make sure that you have run a check on the legality of exotic pets in your area. Also it is best to opt for a captive bred specimen as snakes bred in captivity are easy to tame. Before buying a corn snake, also check for its health condition. A well fleshed snake with clear eyes, flickering tongue and an alert body sans any signs of cuts or scrapes, indicates a sound health.
Before the pet arrives, housing is the primary task to be completed. A 20 gallon long cage with a secure fitting lid should serve your purpose aright. It is advised to keep a substrate on the cage flooring to prevent the cage from getting soiled. This also makes the cleaning jobs easier. Other good choices are using pine bark chips and astro turf (artificial turf). Do not use cedar or pine shavings as they can cause respiratory problems in snakes. Another important aspect of your snake habitat, is a hiding spot for the snake. All snakes like to hide and curl up for security and also to maintain their body temperatures. A hide box, big enough for the snake to burrow in, should be fine. One can also place some twigs and branches inside, to facilitate the pet's free movement inside the cage or terrarium.
Snakes defecate in the water. Hence, your cage must have a water dish compulsorily. Make sure to clean the water, from time to time. Most of the times, the snake soaks itself in the water dish before a shed. For people who are not aware of the shedding process in snakes, here you go! For snakes, the skin gets older, tighter and worn out with time. So when the snake starts to shed, a new skin awaits beneath the old skin. During this natural process, the eyes of the snake turn a milky blue color and a whitish sheen develops over the body. At this time, utmost care should be taken concerning its health. A fresh water dish should be always available to it for proper hydration and easy shedding. It is advised to keep a heavy dish whose diameter is big enough for the snake to soak comfortably.
Snakes are carnivores and this is a well known fact! A corn snake needs a freshly killed prey (or live) for food. A corn snake diet can include small rats, "pinkling mice" and small rodents. Young corn snakes can be fed a couple of times in a week, whereas the adults may be fed once in 10 days. As the snakes grow in size, they can be fed slightly bigger preys like adult mice. When shedding time approaches, the appetite of the snake also reduces drastically. So make sure that their feeding cycles are also reduced around that period.
This is the aspect, where reptiles differ from other pets. Snakes are cold blooded animals and need to maintain their body temperatures with the changing environmental conditions. And corn snake, being a reptile cannot manufacture its own body heat and has to depend on the fluctuations of the internal body temperature. Hence, proper thermoregulation is a must for a corn snake's digestive processes and immune system functioning. Within the terrarium, the temperature should be a gradient of 70-85ºF. Under tank heating pads is a good choice as it disperses uniform heat across the terrarium floor. Another good idea is using an overhead heat lamp (installed on a side of the terrarium), which creates a basking zone for the snake. Do not use hot rocks for temperature regulation, as they produce intense heat inside the terrarium and can cause harm to snakes. Since corn snakes are not tropical snakes, they do not need extreme heat to survive.
Corn snakes are docile and unlike other snakes do now wrap around your fingers or arms. They are freedom lovers and love to keep moving in a direction they take. So when you hold them, make sure you have held the body and let the head free. Another important point to be remembered, snakes can get nervous when placed in new surroundings. So do not place your corn snakes in the hands of a stranger, in a new place. Although they are not aggressive, fear and ignorance can instigate them to bite, although it is not venomous. If you feel, your pet is moving in a wrong direction, gently tilt its head to change the direction of its movement.
Medical Health and Vet Care
Snakes are quite susceptible to infections caused by bacteria, worms and protozoans. When your snake settles down in the first few days, collect the feces in a clean plastic bag, seal it and label it with your name, your pet's name and contact details. Take the sample to a vet to check for signs of infections. If your snake is ill, there are some tangible symptoms that can be identified, such as dehydration, emancipation, refusal to eat, discharge of a thin stringy mucous from nose or change in the color of feces. A timely visit to a vet should help you know if your corn snake is doing fine or not. Ignoring its health issues can kill your pet over a period of time.
Kids are always fascinated by colors. And these beautifully colored corn snakes as pets for kids is an interesting idea! Many parents might instantly disagree because of their instantaneous dislike for these crawling reptiles. Unfortunately, snakes are the most misunderstood and misinterpreted creatures on earth. However the good news is that corn snakes, which are not even venomous, make excellent pets for children and beginners. One of the dazzling variety found among corn snakes is the albino corn snakes. As pets, they are extremely eye catching, with a pattern of dark red blotches with a white belly and a pair of striking ruby red eyes. These snakes are often referred to as "amelanistic". Corn snakes are very amicable and can adjust with their variety as well in the same terrarium. In fact, after petting them for long, they also love to be held and will not impulsively hide every time someone comes near them. It is high time, we shed our mental blocks about snakes and try to understand these beautiful creations of nature. So, what is your take?
By Narayani Karthik