Bringing home that new corn snake you’ve had your eyes on for a while can be an exciting, joyful experience. However, if you’re new to reptile ownership, you may need to review certain aspects of its care, such as corn snake handling and body language. This can cause some unfortunate miscommunications. Especially early on in your relationship.
With this guide, we hope to teach you how to properly handle a corn snake and make any interaction between pet and owner enjoyable for all parties involved.
Handling Your Corn Snake
Start your corn snake handling session by gently tapping it with a snake hook or other light instrument. This will prevent your snake from being surprised. Additionally, this will help it to understand that it is about to be handled, not fed. After this, slowly approach your snake from the side. Pick it up from the middle – avoiding the head and tail. Once you have the snake secure, be sure to avoid leaving a large percentage of its body unsupported. Keeping it close to your body will help to stabilize your snake.
If your snake shows interest in exploring, allow it! You may even start to see them sniffing around your arms and finding a place to perch. If you’re curious on how manageable a corn snake can be, read “How big can a corn snake get?“.
Believe it or not, snakes regularly communicate with their owners. Through their body language and behaviors, our serpentine friends are able to tell you when they’re uncomfortable or distressed. With this information, you will be able to adjust your handling techniques and interact with your corn snake in ways that don’t distress it.
Some signs that indicate your corn snake is stressed and does not want to be handled include:
- “Musking” (releasing a foul odor)
- Defecating or urinating
- Tail shaking
- Head/neck positioned in an “S” shape
If your corn snake is suddenly exhibiting these behaviors when it was previously tolerant of handling, you may want to consider getting it checked out by a vet. Certain physiological issues, such as gastrointestinal problems and parasites can impact your snake’s behavior in a variety of ways.
Dos and Don’ts Of Handling Your Corn Snake
Don’t: Handle your snake before, during, or after its shed. One indicator that the shedding process is about to start is that its eyes may start to appear cloudy.
Don’t: Feed your snake by hand. This may cause your pet to associate your hands with food. Use feeding tongs instead. To learn more about feeding these reptiles, check out “What do corn snakes eat?”.
Don’t: Handle your corn snake immediately after it eats. This may cause it to improperly digest or regurgitate food.
Don’t: Allow young children to handle your snake unsupervised if possible.
Do: Be patient with your pet. Corn snakes can be nervous when first introduced into your home. It may take a few weeks for them to show off their true personality.
Do: Allow it to lead interactions when possible. One way to get your snake to trust you is by simply letting it slowly crawl up your arm at its own pace.
Do: Listen to your snake. End a handling session or interaction when it indicates stress or exhaustion.
Setting Expectations When Handling Your Corn Snake
One of the best ways of building a quality, long-lasting relationship with your corn snake is simply setting proper expectations of what interacting with this animal is like. As any reptile owner could tell you, the experience is quite different compared to owning and handling more traditional pets. Corn snakes do not need or particularly enjoy frequent interactions. While your corn snake may be content hanging over your shoulders or coiled around your arm for a period of time, it won’t enjoy constant handling and disruptions. Keeping these boundaries in mind will help you to maintain an enjoyable, mutually beneficial relationship with your pet.
Corn snakes are unique, long-lived, complicated companions. They deserve proper treatment throughout their lives. By understanding how to properly handle a corn snake, you are doing what you can to ensure that it remains comfortable, confident, and happy in your presence. Before bringing home a corn snake for sale, you may even want to try to interact with one on your own. If possible, ask a snake-owning friend if you can handle it sometime. Once you get to know your new reptile better, you will have little issue handling it in a stress-free way.