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Corn Snakes vs. Rat Snakes (Differences in Behavior and More)

Corn Snakes vs. Rat Snakes (Differences in Behavior and More)

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The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care. In addition, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Snakes are an essential part of various food chains in our ecosystems. They stay in several environments; therefore, we might have personal encounters with them.

As over 3,000 snake species exist on the planet, being unable to identify what kind you see is understandable.

If you’re not an expert, it’s easy to feel confused with their names or appearances. For instance, some people don’t know the difference between the terms corn snake and rat snake.

In this article, I’ll explain the characteristics of a Corn snake vs. Rat snake. Let’s get started!

What Are Rat Snakes?

Rat snakes are medium-sized to giant snakes that suffocate their prey to death. They’re nonvenomous and don’t represent a threat to people.

This group of snakes is part of Colubridae, the largest among the snake families. Rat snakes are primarily calm, but a few species can be aggressive.

About 40 to 55 types of rat snakes are in Europe, North America, and Southeast Asia. Here are some examples of rat snake species:

  • Black rat snake
  • Gray rat snake
  • Yellow rat snake
  • Texas rat snake
  • Baird’s rat snake
  • Trans-Pecos rat snake
  • Everglades rat snake
  • Green rat snake
  • Baja rat snake
  • Fox snakes
  • Red rat snake (corn snake)

Let’s get to know rat snakes’ general characteristics in detail:


Rat snakes have a broad range of appearances depending on the type and region they are inhabiting. They’re typically between 4–6 feet long when fully mature, though other species may reach 10 feet in length.

Rat snakes have ridged scales and may have stripes, blotches, or both. For instance, a black rat snake, also known as the Eastern rat snake, is primarily black, with a white streak running through some of its scales.

Yellow rat snakes have four dark stripes along the length of their bodies. They can be a bit green, orange, or yellow.

On the other hand, gray rat snakes have smooth bodies and may be darker or lighter in the shade.

Natural Habitat

Rat snake varieties may have different preferences as to where they live. They can reside in grasslands, forests, farmlands, and the vicinity of residential areas. Those are the types of environments where they can find more food.

Some rat snake species’ names indicate the same regions where they originate. Some examples are the following:

  • Texas rat snake
  • Philippine rat snake
  • Mandarin rat snake
  • European rat snake
  • Japanese rat snake
  • Baja California rat snake
  • Indonesian rat snake


Rat snakes consume various foods, such as mammals, amphibians, and birds. Some species are skilled at climbing and swimming; therefore, they can find food anywhere.

They’re known for constricting their prey and usually eat small rodents like rats, mice, chipmunks, or moles. But they will also eat birds’ eggs, lizards, and frogs.

Habits and Behavior

These are some of the main behaviors of rat snakes:

1 – Defense Mechanism

Other animals may devour young and little rat snakes. Foxes, weasels, badgers, coyotes, raccoons, hawks, owls, falcons, and more enormous snakes are a few of their predators.

So, when a predator threatens it, a rat snake may release a terrible odor. This musk replicates poison and can help the snake protect itself.

Some of these snakes may freeze if they sense danger. They can also swim away or vibrate their tails in dry leaves, imitating a rattlesnake’s behavior.

2 – Hunting

Rat snakes hunt for their meal. Some kinds prefer eating only warm-blooded animals, while others choose cold-blooded ones.

These animals are frequently active at night, but not all are nocturnal. They can also go out during the day and wait patiently for their next meal.

They’re good at hiding and surprising their prey. After killing an animal, they might leave it and continue hunting.

Rat snakes are known for killing multiple animals and then feasting on them in one meal.

3 – Mating

Like other animals, a male rat snake may fight a fellow to mate over a female. Late spring is often their mating season.

The male rat snake will try to attract a female using pheromones.

4 – Laying Eggs

A female rat snake will lay between 12–20 eggs just a few weeks after mating. Then, it will hide them until they hatch about 2 months later.

Rat snake hatchlings measure over a foot in length, but they’re vulnerable. Other animals, such as hawks and giant snakes, may eat them because they’re left alone.

What Are Corn Snakes?

The corn snake (Pantherophis guttatus) is a rat snake species that originated in North America. It’s a nonvenomous constrictor with an average life span of 8 years in the wild and up to over 20 years in captivity.

Corn snakes can only grow to more than five feet long, making them easier to care for than other types. They’re now gaining popularity, and the species is a favorite pet of many snake lovers.

How Do Corn Snakes Look?

Corn snakes or red rat snakes appear to have an orange or brownish-yellow color which looks like rust. They also have corn-like markings on their bellies which might be how they got their name.

A corn snake is often mistaken for a copperhead, which is a venomous viper. These two types resemble each other in terms of color.

Nowadays, corn snakes have more than 800 morphs, appearing in various attractive colors and having unique patterns. The following are examples of corn snake morphs:

  • Okeetee
  • Snow
  • Blizzard
  • Scaleless
  • Palmetto
  • Hypomelanistic
  • Blood red
  • Blue
  • Pink
  • Opal
  • Lavender
  • Sunkissed
  • Candy cane
  • Caramel
  • Creamsicle
  • Coral snow
  • Butter
  • Peppermint stripe
  • Zigzag

Where Do Corn Snakes Live?

Corn snakes originate from the eastern part of the United States, but many are in Florida. These days, red rat snakes also inhabit other areas, such as the Caribbean Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Bahamas.

As humans have changed the landscape, modern corn snakes don’t only live in the forests. They may find their way to someone’s farm, garden, and of course, as a house pet.

What Do Corn Snakes Eat?

Corn snakes eat what most rat snakes consume; however, they love warm-blooded animals best. In the wild, they will hunt rodents and birds.

People who own corn snakes as pets may feed them differently depending on their size. Snake owners can provide them with live prey or thawed animal bodies.

How Do Corn Snakes Behave?

The red rat snake or corn snake is a diurnal animal. It’s one of the calmest reptiles in the world and rarely bites humans.

Here are other characteristics of corn snakes:

1 – Burrowing

A corn snake may burrow and stay underground due to these reasons:

  • Excessive heat
  • Too much cold
  • Shedding
  • Safety threats

First, corn snakes may burrow to find a more comfortable place when it’s too hot outside. But aside from digging in the ground, they may also hide under rocks or logs to escape the heat.

Second, being cold-blooded animals, they can’t regulate their body heat. Because of this, they may start digging the ground and stay there.

This period of dormancy is called brumation. It’s similar to the hibernation of other animals, but the purpose is to protect the reptiles from the cold climate.

Lastly, like other snakes, they’re more vulnerable during the shedding process because they may have blurry vision. So, to keep themselves safe, they start hiding before shedding.

2 – Nesting

The typical breeding season of corn snakes is from April to June. Females may begin to lay eggs in July.

The females will hide these eggs in areas where there’s enough heat. Then, it will take about two to three months before they hatch.

The hatchlings usually eat small amphibians, such as lizards and frogs, but most baby corn snakes might not survive as their parents will leave them to fend for themselves.

Being weak, they often become easy targets for hungry predators. Some of them will become tasty meals for predatory birds and other snakes.

What Is the Difference Between Corn Snakes and Rat Snakes?

The term rat snake refers to a big group of snakes in different regions. There are several genera of rat snakes, and the corn snake is one of them.

To make it more transparent, let’s change the terms “rat snake” to “fruit” and “corn snake” to “banana.” A banana is a kind of fruit.

In the same way, a corn snake is a kind of rat snake.

Final Thoughts

Understanding the relationship between a corn snake and a rat snake is easy. The latter is a species group, while the former is one of those species.

All members of the rat snake family aren’t dangerous, even if they may bite a person. They have no venom and will only kill their prey through constriction.

Corn snakes mostly have similar characteristics to the other species in the rat snake family. But due to morphing, they can look different from their original appearance.

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