Are corn snakes dangerous?

Table of Contents

Corn snakes are usually referred to as beginner snakes because they are the easiest snake to handle. They are traditionally constrictors, which means they kill their prey by strangling and crushing with their muscle; therefore, they are not venomous. However, there is a danger in keeping a corn snake for a pet that most humans are not aware of, and that is the fact that it can easily spread Salmonella, which is harmful to human life.

Are corn snakes dangerous

Dangers of Snakes in General

When leaving the city to the park or woods, bear in mind that there may be some dangerous snakes along the way. Snakes are ubiquitous, both in their native lands and near the warm sea. Regardless of the country you live in, the risk of getting in contact with a snake is present.

Not all snakes are venomous, but the poisonous ones are indeed dangerous. A snakebite from a poisonous species can lead to lots of allergic reactions, and if help doesn’t arrive on time, it could be fatal.

The most dangerous are snake bites on the face, neck, and hands, i.e., large clusters of blood vessels. Young and small snakes are less dangerous than larger snakes of the same species. Also, the severity of symptoms depends on the behavior of the person after the bite. If a person is active, blood circulation is more intense; therefore, intoxication is more pronounced.

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Why are Corn Snakes Dangerous?

It is usually believed that Corn snakes are harmless, and to a very large extent, this is true. They are docile and can live alone, away from other reptiles. They are a nonvenomous species who kill by crushing their prey with their muscles. However, they are host to a disease pathogen that is harmful to humans.

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Dangers Corn Snakes pose to Humans

Corn snakes are generally regarded as a nonvenomous species of snakes. However, they are host to Salmonella, which is dangerous to Humans. Most reptiles carry Salmonella infection in the intestinal tract, and these bacteria are excreted intermittently or continuously. Recent statistics revealed that 85% of all turtles, 77% of lizards, and 92% of snakes carry one of 500 salmonella serotypes. 

Salmonella does not generally cause disease in reptiles, but it may lead to serious illness in humans. Salmonella bacteria can be easily transmitted from reptiles to humans through ingestion when the person comes in contact with the dropping of the animal, and they put the same hand in their mouths or on food that they later eat. Most babies become infected after drinking contaminated bottles of infant formula. The contamination arose when people who prepared the formula did not wash their hands after touching a reptile feces. Simply touching or catching a reptile will not spread bacteria unless something contaminated with feces is put in its mouth.

Many healthy people come into contact with Salmonella and other illnesses daily. Still, they do not become infected because they have a healthy immune system and interact with relatively few organisms. 

People with Salmonella have a mild illness that resolves on its own and is usually characterized by diarrhea, fever, along with abdominal cramps. Nevertheless, the infection can spread to the bloodstream, bone marrow, or nervous system, causing serious and sometimes fatal disease. This serious infection is more common in infants and individuals with a weakened immune system. Unfortunately, Salmonella cannot be removed from the intestine of reptiles—failure to administer antibiotics to eliminate these bacteria may lead to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant Salmonella bacteria. Attempts to reproduce or identify the reptiles that do not carry salmonella bacteria have also failed; For this reason, bacterial culture of stool samples is not recommended to identify reptiles that do not carry salmonella bacteria.

Fortunately, by practicing good hygiene and staying as far away from these animals’ feces as possible, we can fight the spread of Salmonella. Here are some preventive tips:

● Make use of disposable gloves and sterilize your hands after working with reptiles, reptile equipment, and defecation.

● Do not allow reptiles to enter the kitchen, dining room, or any other area where food is prepared.

● Refrain from eating or drinking when you are working with reptiles, and do not kiss them.

● Consider restricting the reptile movement in a cage or an area of the house to minimize the risk of spreading the bacteria.

● People with suppressed immunity levels such as infants, pregnant women, the elderly, etc. are at particular risk of infection or severe complications of salmonellosis. They should at least take additional measures; Ideally, they should avoid contact with reptiles.

● Children under the age of 5 are cautioned not to be allowed to have direct contact with reptiles.

● Do not share the same tools that you use with your pets.

● Follow your reptile veterinarian’s instructions for an appropriate reptile diet and environment. Healthy reptiles produce fewer salmonella bacteria.

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Are corn snakes Aggressive?

Corn snakes are popular and generally accepted by a wide audience of snake lovers because of their calm demeanor. They will not bite except when they are threatened, and even at that, their bite is not painful nor venomous. For the most part, their bite will not result in the breaking of the human skin; it is just a warning for you to “back off.” 

Similarly, they are also non-aggressive with other species of snake; this means you can keep them together and not worry about them disturbing the other reptiles. All they need is a quiet corner where to sit and sufficient clean water from time to time.

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Do Corn Snakes Bite?

Corn snakes are small, medium-sized, orange-colored, non-venomous snakes that originated in the southeastern United States but can be kept as pets in many different countries. Bites from a corn snake due to a lack of venom are usually just a slight trauma. However, if you get bitten, it is important to clean the affected area well to prevent infection and consult a doctor if bites result in skin damage. When a corn snake bites its skin and refuses to release it, care must also be taken not to injure the snake. 

Most snakes kill their prey with their sharp teeth and deadly poison, but corn snakes are primarily constrictors who kill by suffocation. If you ever get bitten by a corn snake, the teeth probably won’t break your skin. Although most corn snake bites do not require medical attention, wash the affected area with soap and water ASAP to avoid the spread of infection.   

If a corn snake bite has broken through your skin, especially if you have not been vaccinated against tetanus in the past five to ten years, you should see a doctor. After evaluating the wound, your doctor may prescribe tetanus drugs or antibiotics to reduce the risk of infection. Finally, if the corn snake bites you and refuses to loosen its grip on your skin, resist the instinct to panic. To avoid damaging the snake’s teeth and jaw, it is important not to pull it off forcefully. Snakes will usually bite when they feel threatened, so remain calm until it loses its grip. In case the snake remains adamant, some snake owners recommend rotating its head under gently flowing water.

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Are Corn Snakes Friendly?

Corn snakes are biologically classified under the Rat Snake family, and they are famous for their gentle nature, which makes them easy to be domesticated. They are a friendly species of snake based on the following reasons:

Family Friendly: Thanks to their non-aggressive demeanor, Corn Snakes feel comfortable with the whole family. 

Adults and children can play with them confidently without the fear of a bite. They are generally well-behaved.

Ease of Care: Constructing a vivarium for corn snakes is a very straightforward process. There are lots of videos to watch on the Internet that can guide you to do that without hiring experts.

Low Cost of Maintenance: Baby corn snakes need to be fed with thawed food once a week. Adults are fed once every two weeks. Otherwise, you just need to make sure they have fresh water and keep their environment warm. 

They come in beautiful colors: Now, a Corn Snake has many color variations. You can choose the perfect Corn Snake color that suits you.

They are easy to Breed: If you want to raise a pet snake, Corn Snake is perfect. Reptile enthusiasts and beginners can quickly learn how to breed them. 

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How Often Can I hold my Corn Snake?

You will need to wait a while once you bring your new corn snake home. The waiting period usually lasts for about two weeks, so you shouldn’t attempt handling until it has acclimatized and started eating regularly. Once the reptile is ready, hold it slowly- as in any relationship. Start with short control sessions of about 5 minutes and do not return it to the vivarium until it calms down.  This teaches your pet how to act with initial positive reinforcement. 

Once this has been achieved, you can increase the play time to 10 minutes, then gradually for up to half an hour. However, the handling sessions should not exceed one hour as the snake will be very cold. This handling session should happen at least once or twice a week, but not more than once a day.  

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How to Handle a Corn Snake

Before removing your corn snake from the vivarium, make sure it is awake by tapping it gently with a roll of tissue paper or stroking its body. This will teach it to differentiate between food time and handling time.  

Once the tongue begins to twitch, you’ll know the snake has woken up. If you are a little anxious, wear light gloves to prevent a bite. Pick it up from the side because they are familiar with predators attacking from above in the wild. If you approach them from the top, it may trigger a defensive action.

When you pick it up, hold the body as much as possible and avoid the tail or holding the head. Once you have the snake in your hands, hold it close to your body and gently control its movements with your hands. Corn Snakes love to explore, so wait until they start climbing onto your lap. 

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When to Avoid Handling the Snake

If your corn snake has eaten within 48 hours, it is ideal to leave it alone. This is because handling it may cause regurgitation of its meal, which is very stressful and fatal. It is a very disturbing experience.

If your corn snake is about to shed its skin, you have to suspend any handling plan. The snake will have cloudy blue eyes, which makes it very defensive as it cannot see well. Wait for your pet to shed before resuming its regular handling session.

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Understanding the Body Language of Corn Snakes

The body language of a corn snake is very simple, but you need to know it to make the best possible contact with your pet.

Tonguing in and out: This action shows that the snake “smells” the air. This is how it knows that there is a predator, prey, or a person nearby. It also indicates that the snake is awake.

No movement: the snake is probably sleeping (there are no eyelids to close). 

The head is pulled backward, and the neck is folded in an “S” shape: the snake feels threatened and prepares to defend itself if necessary. He can also prepare to hit prey.

Hissing: The snake wants you to go away

Tail wag: The snake senses danger and tries to frighten the predator.

Defecation when Handling: The snake thinks you are a predator and uses foul-smelling stool or musk to try to escape.

Blue / cloudy eyes: the snake is preparing to shed its skin. It cannot see well. So it can become more aggressive. 

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The Dangers Corn Snakes Pose to Other Snakes

Snakes are usually territorial in nature; this means they would keep their habitat against an external invasion and are ready to fight it off. However, Corn Snakes are probably the calmest type of snake in existence. 

Corn snakes feed mainly on smaller rodents and reptiles like lizards and snakes. They can eat up the eggs of other snakes, thereby diminishing their population-this is the major challenge that they pose to other species of snakes. Most Reptiles are carriers of Salmonella bacteria, and it is not harmful to them. Therefore an infected Corn snake may end up infecting other snakes, but the disease only has a negative effect on Humans.

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Do’s and Don’ts of Keeping a Corn Snake as a Pet to Minimize Dangers

Raising a Corn snake is not as daunting as other types of reptiles; by following the tips given below, you will have a good experience with raising them.


● Ensure there is enough clean water available for them to drink.

● Clean up their vivarium at least once in two weeks.

● Ensure that the environment is warm enough for them by using a heater.

● Provide enough humidity so that skin shedding can be easy. 

● Consult a vet when you suspect they could be sick.


● Don’t leave them alone with your little children.

● Don’t carry them before their food is yet to digest.

● Don’t carry them all the time; it can hurt them.

● Don’t kiss them; you can easily get infected that way.

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Summarily, Snakes are largely considered as exotic pets, and Corn snakes are an amazing pet to start with if you are a snake lover and would like to learn snake handling. With a Corn Snake, you will learn a lot about snake handling and boost your confidence level.

In a General sense, Corn Snakes are harmless to humans, but if the necessary precautions are not put in place, a human can get infected with a bacteria that could become fatal if not treated in time. By following the safety precautions that have been outlined in this article, you won’t encounter many challenges with this species of snake.

Hazel Buckley
Hazel Buckley

About Hazel Buckley
Hazel is an animal enthusiast and educator who grew up on a farm which her parents owned in Ingogo, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.  The farm was situated right under the Majuba Mountains - the site where the Anglo-Boer War was fought. 

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that the information published on this website is accurate, the author and owners of this website take no responsibility  for any loss or damage suffered as a result of relience upon the information contained therein.  Furthermore the bulk of the information is derived from information in 2018 and use therefore is at your on risk. In addition you should consult professional advice if required.