Corn snakes are non-venomous Colubrids. For a long time, the humble corn snake has been one of the most popular pet snakes in the United States, and with good reason. They are even-tempered, relatively easy to care for, moderately sized, and are available in a startlingly diverse range of colors and patterns.
Like rosy boas and ball pythons, corn snakes are interbred by herpetologists and commercial breeders in order to create the most striking phenotypes—that’s the genetic term for physical body. In other words, breeders are like painters, mixing together different color combinations in order to create the most beautiful tapestry.
The they do this by breeding together two snakes of different ‘morphs’—this is like the color scheme of the snake’s pattern. Put simply, mixing two morphs together produces offspring which exhibits some qualities of one, some of the other. Except, it’s not quite as simple as that; some morphs are dominant, some are recessive. This means that it’s not always totally predictable what the offspring will look like. But that’s part of the fun!
One of the naturally occurring corn snake morphs is the albino corn snake. If you know about albinism, great! You can skip to the next bit. If you don’t, I’ll run you through some of the details now.
What is albinism?
Albinism occurs when mutated genes get in the way of melanin production – this is the main pigment that determines an animal’s eye, fur and skin color. So, it is a genetic condition which means the carrier does not show any dark pigmentation. It is naturally occurring, though quite rare. There are examples all over the animal kingdom, from alligators to orangutans.
So, how is albinism expressed in corn snakes?
Well, the albino corn snake is very visually striking. As you might expect, its base color is very light – a sort of pinkish off-white. It has bright red eyes, indicative of the albino mutation. Sometimes the eyes can be pinkish orange, but mostly they are a reddish color.
But it doesn’t end there. Albino corn snakes have a vivid pink-red-orange pattern running from the head to the tip of the tail. The emphasis on each color varies from snake to snake, but there’s no denying how visually striking this pattern is!
The albino corn snake is a great example of when albinism doesn’t make an animal completely white. It lacks melanin—which is why it is also known as an amelanistic corn snake, but it still has the genes required to display red pigmentation. That’s why the eyes blaze with such a strong red color, and why it still manages to produce such a vibrant, vivid red-hued pattern on its scales.
Corn snakes are very popular pets, right across the United States, for their docile temperament and ease of care. Among the vast array of color morphs available, albino corn snakes are relatively easy to get hold of, and affordable. For this reason, if you’re thinking about getting your hands on a corn snake, the albino might be the one for you!
In this guide, I’ll be covering the following:
- Where are corn snakes usually found?
- What is the lifespan of a normal corn snake?
- How long do albino corn snakes live in the wild vs. in captivity?
- How large can albino corn snakes grow?
- Are albino corn snakes poisonous?
- How do albino corn snake genetics work?
- Why are albino corn snakes important for corn snake breeders?
- How do you breed an albino corn snake?
- 10 interesting corn snake morphs that come from albinos, plus descriptions.
We’ve got a lot to get through. So, let’s get started!
Where are normal corn snakes normally found?
Corn snakes (probably) get their name from their propensity for living in areas with large amounts of corn. For example, corn fields. They like to eat rodents, which like to eat corn, so corn fields are ideal spots for corn snakes. They are also sometimes found in barns where corn is stored, because of the likelihood of them coming across a delicious meal there.
Incidentally, another theory for how they get their name is the corn kernel patterning on their stomachs. It’s true! The interlocking scales on their bellies look remarkably similar to series of corn nibs laid out in an intricate pattern.
The parts of the United States where you’ll most likely come across a corn snake are in the southeastern regions—anywhere where corn is grown—or in wooded areas. They like longleaf pine forests and the flat woods of the southeastern plains.
Corn snake habitats typically contain places where the snakes can burrow during the day to escape the hot sun. Corn snakes also like to climb trees and hang from branches, so these are the things to watch out for, if you’re looking for one!
They are active during day and night, but are predominantly nocturnal in very hot weather. If the weather is colder, they will find refuge in stump holes, the burrows of other animals, or in other subterranean shelters.
Albino snakes are not often found in the wild. They stick out so much that they are often predated upon before they reach maturity. The same goes for many other species. Amenalistic animals are rare to start with, and to add to that, they are often much more vulnerable. For this reason, it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll see a wild albino corn snake.
How long do corn snakes typically live?
Wild corn snakes usually live for around 6-8 years. However, they can live a lot longer in a captive environment. The record for the oldest corn snake living in captivity (as in, born and bred) was over 32 years! But 20 years is a more realistic age to aim for.
Important! If you catch a wild corn snake and try to rear it in a captive environment, there is a high probability that it will not survive very long. Snakes are not good at adjusting to a vastly new environment. The captive snakes which live long, adjusted lives are those which have been born into captivity.
Another limiting factor on a corn snake’s lifespan in the wild is the resemblance they bear to copperheads. Copperheads are highly venomous, and are often killed on sight by farmers for the sake of self-preservation. While corn snakes don’t look very similar, they look similar enough to raise alarm bells. This is a pity, because corn snakes are actually useful to humans. They keep rodent populations down, so next time you see one, give it a salute!
To tell a copperhead from an albino corn snake, here’s what you need to know:
- Copperheads have hourglass markings, whereas the markings on a corn snake are more like random blotches.
- Corn snakes have a checkered pattern on their bellies, whereas copperheads do not.
If you think you’ve spotted a copperhead, the best thing to do is just leave it alone.
How long albinos live in the wild?
No matter the species, albinos stick out from the crowd. They lack the camouflage that their species has developed over evolutionary eons to help them blend into their surroundings! For this reason, they are more vulnerable than their ‘normal’ counterparts, and are often caught and preyed upon before they reach adulthood.
The same goes for corn snakes, although, as you can imagine, an albino corn snake sticks out slightly less than an albino orangutan. Snakes are pretty good at looking after themselves, but ultimately, they need to hunt to eat. Albinos have a disadvantage here, because their prey is much more likely to see them sneaking up in the dark.
Remember: not all white animals are albino, and not all albinos are completely white! Many animals display other pigmentations besides melanin. Other conditions like leucism or isabellinism also affect how dark or light an animal appears. How can you tell? Look at the eyes!
How long can albinos live in captivity?
In captivity, albinos have the same lifespan as normal corn snakes. One important thing to remember about different corn snake morphs (as with rosy boa morphs, or ball python morphs), is that it only relates to the coloration and pattern. An albino corn snake is fundamentally the same as a ‘normal’ corn snake—its differences are cosmetic.
With other species, genetic problems can emerge among certain morph combinations. Largely though, morphs are exhibited only on the surface, so in captivity they live as long as each other.
How big can albino corn snakes grow?
Corns are slender snakes, and can reach a length of anything between 18 and 44 inches (or 45-112cm). The record length, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History, is 72 inches!
Are albino corn snakes poisonous?
Corn snakes do not possess functional venom, and are reluctant to bite unless very threatened. The corn snake belongs to the North American rat snake species, all of which are constrictors. They capture and squeeze their prey to death, subduing them by constriction rather than the injection of deadly venom.
The Colubrid family, of which rat snakes and corn snakes are members, is almost entirely non-venomous, and mostly harmless. Exceptions include the genus Boiga, and species such as the boomslang, twig snake, and the Asian genus Rhabdophis. Other than these, you don’t need to worry about Colubridae—many of them are actually beneficial to human populations!
What does albino corn snake look like?
Albino corn snakes are amelanistic—they do have melanin. This is the dark pigmentation responsible for dark features, whether they be skin, eye or (in the case of mammals) fur. Lacking this dark pigmentation means that albino corn snakes only display the other pigments they otherwise produce.
Another example of a similar trait is the anerythristic gene, which causes a snake to not produce erythrin, which is responsible for red, yellow and orange coloring. As you can guess, these snakes are monochrome, or black and white, in contrast to amelanistic corn snakes.
Albino corn snakes typically have red and orange blotches on their back, each surrounded by a thick white border. Sometimes there are pinkish highlights in the red, saddle-shaped markings. There can also be yellow colors around the neck and head. An albino corn snake’s belly is mostly white, with some spots and speckles of red.
The key thing to watch out for – the main signifier of albinism – is red eyes. If a snake has no dark pigment, it cannot have the black eyes we come to expect of a snake. Albino corn snake eyes shine like rubies. Some are dark and dull, some bright and fiery, but one thing is for sure: they are all remarkable!
What kind of scales do albino corn snakes have?
Corn snakes have keeled scales, meaning they do not lie totally flat against the body. In the centre of each scale is a small kink, or ridge, which gives the whole snake a textured, shimmering aspect. There are two main theories as to why these keeled scales evolved:
- The roughened texture provides friction and grip, allowing the snake to dig more easily into the ground, or climb trees with less effort. This would make the purpose, or utility, of the keeled scales somewhat similar to our finger- and toe-nails.
- The keeled scales allow the snake to blend into its surroundings more effectively. The textured surface appears to diffract light, sending it in many different angles, rather than reflecting it all back in one direction. This means corn snakes appears less shiny, and makes it more camouflaged.
Regardless, these scales make corn snakes stand out among other snakes, most of whose scales are flat against their body. This gives corn snakes a duller appearance, especially when compared to flat-scaled snakes under harsh lighting.
Albino corn snake genes
During snake reproduction, different genes are passed from each parent to the offspring. The combination of genes present in the DNA of an animal is known as the genotype = gene + type. These are expressed in different ways, depending on which genes are dominant and which are recessive. Dominant genes are expressed, whereas recessive genes are usually not. The physical manifestation of the genes, i.e., the actual snake which is born, and the way it looks – this is called the phenotype = physical type.
The gene which codes for albinism in corn snakes is recessive.
Snakes carrying this gene are often referred to as amels, because they carry the gene which codes for amelanism, which is synonymous with albinism.
For recessive genes, two copies are required for the trait to be expressed in the phenotype. This means that if only one parent possesses the albino gene, the offspring will not express this albinism. They might, however, be given the gene and simply carry it.
If both parent snakes are carriers of the albino gene, and those genes are passed onto the offspring, then the two recessive alleles will be expressed together, and the offspring will be albino. Simple, right?
How to breed an albino corn snake
Albino corn snakes are important in the world of snake breeding, for two main reasons.
- The gene which codes for albinism is naturally occurring. Naturally occurring base morphs are few, and if a new one is discovered it is incredibly valuable. This is because a new morph, when combined with all the other pre-existing morphs, can be responsible for almost countless new morph combinations.
- Thinking again in terms of the color palette, the albino gene can be easily visualized in combination with another corn snake morph. It is a relatively simple equation – you just take away all the dark pigmentation. For this reason, albinos are popular among breeders, for the effect they have on the offspring’s appearance.
The surest way to producing offspring that will exhibit the albino trait is by breeding together two albino corn snakes. Otherwise, there will be too many melanistic genes to contend with!
Most albino corn snakes are bred in captivity, by special breeders. The mating season typically runs from March to May, and an egg clutch can contain anywhere from 10 to 30 eggs.
The steps in corn snake reproduction are as follows:
- The female lays eggs in a warm, earthy place. This will usually be somewhere secluded and out of reach of predators. If it is in captivity, it will be a nest box, or darkened enclosure. Common spots in the wild include inside trees, or under rotting stumps or vegetation. Humidity is important.
- Once laid, the female does not return to her eggs.
- Approximately 2 months later (perhaps 3), the eggs hatch, and must immediately fend for themselves.
- Healthy hatchlings should already be 9 inches long, but could be as long as 14 inches.
- After 18-30 months, these corn snakes should be fully grown.
- As long as their bodies are fully developed, corn snakes are of reproductive age as young as 18 months.
Prices vary, but you should be able to buy (or sell) an albino corn snake hatchling for $50.
10 interesting corn snake morphs that come from breeding with the albino/amelanistic…
Here are 10 of my favorite corn snake morphs. Firstly, they have awesome names. Secondly, they look fantastic. After the name of each one, I’ve written the base morphs which need to be genetically combined to produce the desired result. This is a simplified version of what goes on in a breeder’s head, when they are planning on producing each one!
For an exhaustive list of the corn snake morphs currently in existence around the world, visit IansVivarium. There are hundreds!
- Amel Cinder (Peppermint) = amelanistic + cinder
- Amel cinders, otherwise known as ‘peppermint’ corn snakes, are produced when an amelanistic corn snake is successfully bred with a cinder. They are pale pink in color, with hotter pink regular blotches running their length. These blotches are bordered by a hot, dark pink boundary. Eyes = red.
- Auratum = amelanistic + toffee
- Toffee is a dominant trait, whereas amelanistic is recessive. The auratum has a pale pinkish background color with striking, burnt orange saddles which typically reduce in size towards the tail. The pattern folds in on itself on the snake’s head, in a concentric pattern of ovular shapes. Eyes = red.
- Butter = amelanistic + caramel
- Two recessive genes make the butter corn snake a seething, enigmatic blend of yellows, pale off-whites and oranges. The pattern looks like it’s being seen through blurred lenses, and seems to repeat and overlap. Eyes = vivid red.
- Snow = amelanistic + anerythristic
- Snows are really incredible. Their colors – pale orange, pink, yellow, white – blend into one another like a pastel painting. We’ve got a whole guide dedicated to snow corn snake genetics, so head over there for more detail. Eyes = varying shades of red.
- Sunkissed Opal (Amel Orchid) = amelanistic + lavender + sunkissed
- Three recessive genes. The sunkissed opal has a characteristic dark pink base color, with hot orange blotches, some more pronounced than others. Eyes = you guessed it: red.
- Aurora = sunrise + het amelanistic + het ultra
- The aurora has a truly unique look. Its base color is a sort of moody mauve-indigo, with thick bands of pale pink, and darker maroon boundaries. Spots of orange punctuate each band. Eyes = dark red.
- Avalanche (Diffused Snow) = amelanistic + anerythristic + diffused
- These can be hard to tell apart from snows. Their patterns and coloration tend to be more distinctive, but can also be very mellow. Eyes = pale red.
- Candyfloss = amelanistic + anerythristic + cinder
- Named for its pastel-pale, washed out coloring, the candyfloss corn snake can look gaunt, but really there is beauty to behold. This morph is quite rare. Eyes = pinkish red.
- Fire Stripe = amelanistic + diffused + stripe
- Formed from three recessive genes, this snake defies all odds and burns like a hot ember with its vivid red coloration! The only area where this striking color abates is around the head, where it fades, and then returns in two distinctive blotches. Its belly is lighter in color. Eyes = Mephistophelean red.
- Citrine = amelanistic + anerythristic + caramel + hypomelanistic
- The only corn snake on my list to express four unique morphs – the citrine is actually quite understated in appearance. Its colors appear pallid, ghostly, and a little washed out. But, again, there is an enigmatic, doleful resonance to it.
That concludes the roundup of my personal favorite corn snake morphs. Which are your favorites?
Corn snakes are a mixed bunch – in terms of appearance. But in essence, they are all the same: easy to care for, docile yet nimble, amiable creatures. They are popular pets for a reason. But bear in mind one thing – they can be excellent escape artists, so make sure the enclosure you provide has locking doors!
Anything to share?
Do you have an albino corn snake? Would you like to own one? Let us know about your thoughts and experiences—we’re always interested in hearing our readers’ opinions!
Share this guide with anyone who might find it useful. Good luck on your herpetological journey!