Corn snakes are one of the most popular species of snakes to own as a pet, but whether or not they are poisonous is a concern. I decided to conduct some thorough research into this and other closely related topics to ensure you have the information you need to keep one safely.
So, are corn snakes poisonous? Corn snakes are not poisonous nor are they venomous. Corn snakes do not possess fangs, are not considered aggressive, and are unlikely to bite unless provoked. Instead, corn snakes are constrictors – killing prey through squeezing and shutting off blood flow in the victim.
For these reasons, these colorful snakes are small-sized and make excellent pets because they are usually docile and easy to tame.
Knowing that corn snakes are not poisonous or venomous makes them an attractive potential species of snakes to own.
But whether they are aggressive and likely bite are further questions that we need to explore.
Let us now take a closer look at corn snakes and what owners can expect to face when keeping them.
- 1 Are Corn Snakes Venomous?
- 2 Are Corn Snakes Aggressive?
- 3 Do Corn Snakes Bite?
- 4 What To Do If Bitten By A Corn Snake
- 5 Finally
- 6 Related Questions
Are Corn Snakes Venomous?
Corn snakes are not venomous, nor do they even possess fangs to be able to inject.
There are a lot of reports of people killing harmless corn snakes by mistaking them for a venomous species; their bright colors often are the reason behind such worries and acts.
Corn snakes do not have functional venom. As constrictor snakes, they apply constriction to subdue their prey.
Constrictor snakes attack their prey, holding on before pulling the victim into its coils.
If the animal is larger, constrictor snakes pull themselves onto the prey.
These serpents then wrap one or two loops around their victim, making a constriction coil. The snake cleverly watches the prey’s heartbeat to tell when it is dead.
It is a common misconception that constrictors crush their prey or cause suffocation.
Constriction shuts off blood flow ( in turn, shutting off oxygen ) needed by the heart and the brain, which leads to unconsciousness and inevitably cardiac arrest.
Are Corn Snakes Aggressive?
Generally speaking, corn snakes are not aggressive; they are usually calm and fine with their owners coming into their cage or even handling them.
These species are considered excellent starter snakes and wonderful pets. Some even describe them as “friendly“.
There are times when these snakes can become aggressive. However, this is rare and unlikely.
With many animals, gender plays a role in aggression with a male or female being more aggressive. This is not the case with corn snakes.
There is no difference in temperament between a male and a female corn snake. Both genders are typically gentle snakes and make excellent pets.
However, with this being said, corn snakes can become aggressive. It does happen and is something to be aware of.
There are many reasons why a normally calm corn snake can become suddenly aggressive.
Let’s consider some of these reasons:
Be Careful How You Feed Corn Snakes
It’s important not to attempt to pick your snake up while they feed.
Of course, they will attempt to protect their ‘catch’ and will look to fend off any potential thieves. To your snake, you are a potential risk to them fulfilling their hunger.
Occasionally, corn snakes can also accidentally mistake a hand or a finger for prey. While this may feel like an attack, it’s completely accidental and should not be mistaken for real aggression.
If your snake is biting you during feedings, you can purchase some animal handling gloves.
The Rapicca gloves are very thick and durable, and you can get them for a great price on Amazon.
These will completely protect you from any accidental attacks.
When Your Snake Is Shedding
When a snake is shedding their skin, it is a very stressful time for them. You need to be observant and watch out for when this process is occurring.
For more experienced snake owners, you can even anticipate ahead of time and start to look out for signs this process is due to begin.
You must leave your snake alone when they are shedding.
Their skin is very vulnerable and uncomfortable, and the snake is likely to feel minor pain/discomfort if handled during this time.
As you can imagine, the snake is therefore likely to want to minimize if not eradicate any source of pain.
The stress of shedding is worsened by the fact that they cannot see at this time either.
Aside from not handling them, move slowly to avoid startling your snake.
When Your Snake Feels Threatened Or Stressed
If a snake feels either threatened or stressed, like any animal, it will act aggressively in self-defense as a way of protecting itself.
So leave them alone when you may feel that they are agitated and try not to startle them.
Ensure that you are not backing them into a corner, feeding them enough, and ensuring their enclosure is spacious enough and has everything that they need.
Keeping the temperature and humidity optimized at all times is also a must.
Don’t handle them too hard, and if you must approach them, do so from the side and never directly above them.
Do Corn Snakes Bite?
Generally, corn snakes will not bite or without a reason to attempt to do so. However, they can do so on occasion, particularly if provoked.
Thankfully, a corn snake bite is known to sting rather than hurt, but of course, this is subjective.
When they do bite, it could be for the reasons mentioned above, or it could be because of the way they were raised; it might also be due to environmental factors.
The temperament of a corn snake is generally calm, but they all have their grouchy phases, especially when they are young.
It is not uncommon for younger snakes to show more aggression and possibly bite. There are things that you can do to alleviate their stress:
Examine Their Setup
Has anything new stressed out your snake lately? If there is a change, even the slightest alteration to their environment?
Is there any local noise for example, or something you hadn’t quite considered like lighting?
Stand Your Ground
Sometimes corn snakes need to get used to their owner all over again. You also want to train them not to lunge at you, or reinforce this behavior.
If your snake is in a bad mood or attempts to lunge at you, don’t back away. If you do so, they will learn that doing so is beneficial.
Equally, don’t make them stressed or worry them unnecessarily. You must know when to approach them and how to deal with an aggressive corn snake.
Firstly, move away from your snake in a calm fashion and avoid any sudden movements.
Secondly, if you must approach them, always do so from the side, never from above.
Otherwise, you will be acting like a predator. For this reason, you should purchase a tank that opens from the front/side and not from above.
The Carolina Custom Cages Terrarium is an excellent example and one of the best you can get on Amazon.
If you must pick up your corn snake, again pick them up from the side. If they do lunge at you or hisses, slowly continue.
The bite of a corn snake doesn’t hurt; this should encourage you to break your snake biting habit.
However, you can wear purchase and wear specific handling gloves, like this excellent pair.
Corn snakes usually relax once they are handled, and the lunging should stop.
You should practice this every day in 10 to 15-minute sessions before placing them back into their enclosure.
Do not handle them for too long as it stresses them out. Keep the sessions short to minimize stress and for your snake to gradually get used to you.
What To Do If Bitten By A Corn Snake
In the unfortunate event that you do get bitten by a corn snake, first and foremost there is no need to worry. They cannot inject you with poison or venom. Plus, they do not have fangs and only have small teeth. You will likely only get a very small scratch.
Therefore, if you were to be bitten you wouldn’t require medical attention like stitches or surgery.
Bites will not be deep, so you would not need to worry about having a deep wound.
In fact, this is one of the benefits of keeping corn snakes over other species.
In the event that a bite was to occur; try to remain calm around your snake.
If you are holding them put them back into their enclosure as slowly and gently as possible.
If your corn snake was able to penetrate your skin; do not force them off – this can cause further damage to your skin (and may even open up a wound), plus it can harm and provoke your snake further, even harming them.
If your snake did bite and was fixed to you, here is the best thing to do.
Run some cold water over your snake’s head.
Do not pour a lot of water, but just a small amount from a tape or water bottle. This is usually enough for the snake to release their jaw.
Alternatively, you can use a pen to try and prey the snake’s jaw open.
Doing so with your hand is not advised here unless of course, you are wearing a glove.
Either way, you need to be very careful when prying their mouths open.
They are actually very delicate, and doing so with force can damage or even break their jaw.
This would prevent them from being able to eat, causing them a lot of pain, and will likely cost you a lot in a vet bill.
Sometimes it can even kill a snake so you need to be careful!
Once your snake has been returned to its enclosure, leave them for sufficient time to calm down.
Then, wash your scratch/small wound with some lukewarm water and some soap.
This will prevent the buildup of bacteria in the wound which can cause infection if left untreated.
Then, just bandage your cut/wound like any other.
Neospirin is always good to stock in the house when owning a pet because it is an anti-biotic and will help the wound heal faster.
It will also prevent any infection from taking hold.
If you were unfortunate enough to get an infection; you’ll need to seek out medical treatment who will be able to provide you with some medicine to treat it.
Consider, however, this is very unlikely as a corn snake owner.
Corn snakes are among the safest species of snake to keep as a pet; they are constrictors that kill other animals by constricting their blood flow.
They do not possess fangs and instead only have small teeth.
Biting, and injecting poison/venom does not come naturally to them nor do they use this to kill their prey.
So, in answer to your original question, corn snakes are not poisonous. They are not venomous either! And the distinction is very important.
To clarify something about “poisonous” and “venomous” snakes. Venomous snakes are not “poisonous” – they inject their prey with toxins and usually through their fangs.
Poisonous is a term that applies to animals that unload toxins, but only when you ingest and consume them.
Either way, you are not at risk from a corn snake.
Corn snakes are excellent pets because of their gentle temperament, but like any animal, they are not perfect.
There are occasions when a corn snake can be aggressive and even bite; thankfully, these occasions are few and far between.
While they do not look for affection from their owners, they can become used to handling it in time.
If you treat your corn snake well and you are sensitive to uncomfortable phases in their life like when they are eating, shedding skin, etc your snake should not act aggressively towards you.
And if you are wondering about whether other species of snakes are poisonous, check out my other guides:
Corn snakes cannot kill humans. They possess no fangs, poison, or venom and only have very small teeth. They are generally calm and will not attempt to constrict you as they instinctively know that they would not be able to digest you.
A pet corn snake will live on average between 10-20 years. Snakes tend to live a shorter in captivity, and wild corn snakes can live upwards of 25 years.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.