Corn snakes have a reputation for being one of the most docile and mild-mannered snakes around, but do they ever bite?
What kind of teeth or fangs do they have, if any?
What should you do if you get bitten by one?
We’ve got all the answers to your questions about these snakes’ chompers below.
Corn snakes do not have fangs, as they are nonvenomous. However, they have around 20 to 30 small, thin teeth they use to latch onto their prey. These teeth are very brittle yet sharp. Thankfully, corn snakes are generally non-aggressive and don’t often bite humans.
Keep reading to learn more about corn snakes, their teeth, and how troublesome their bite truly is.
We’ll also touch on how to treat a corn snake bite if you do get bitten.
Do Corn Snakes Have Teeth Or Fangs?
Corn snakes do not have any actual fangs, though they have around 20 to 30 tiny, thin, evenly-sized teeth to assist with grabbing onto and incapacitating their prey.
They are constrictor snakes and nonvenomous colubrids, so they don’t need fangs for injecting venom.
Instead of injecting venom, corn snakes simply wrap their bodies around their prey and suffocate them before swallowing them whole.
Their teeth are perfect for “chewing into” their prey; a corn snake will bite into the prey animal (usually a small rodent) as it swallows and uses its muscles to move it further down into its throat.
These teeth also help keep the corn snake’s prey from escaping by locking them into the snake’s mouth.
The typical adult corn snake’s teeth are slightly angled and arranged in relatively uniform rows along the sides of the top and bottom jaws.
The snake’s upper jaw typically has more teeth than the bottom.
These thin, small teeth are quite brittle despite being very sharp, and corn snakes constantly replace them.
It is common for them to sometimes lose a tooth occasionally while biting into their prey.
Can A Corn Snake Bite You?
Both wild and captive, corn snakes are relatively shy and mild-mannered towards humans, so they are far more likely to simply flee than bite defensively.
Since they are so small and nonvenomous, they instinctively know messing with a large animal like a human isn’t worth the time, risk, or effort for them.
However, virtually all snakes can bite, including the humble, timid corn snake.
This is especially common with baby and juvenile corn snakes, who are more unpredictable and don’t yet fully know the strength of their bite.
Additionally, corn snakes are somewhat nervous snakes, and if they are caught by surprise or handled too roughly, they will occasionally bite out of fear.
Fortunately, since corn snakes don’t produce any kind of functional venom and have tiny teeth, their bites are nothing to worry about, provided you clean, bandage, and maintain them properly.
It is also essential to check any bite wounds for shed teeth and remove them to avoid getting lodged into the wound.
In the vast majority of cases, though, even if a corn snake is frightened, it will usually attempt to run away instead of biting.
Even if and when they bite, they are incapable of seriously harming humans, even young children.
Many reptile owners compare the pain of a corn snake’s bite to a minor paper cut–a bit sharp, to be sure, but superficial.
Proper handling, regular socialization, and being as gentle as possible with your pet snake while avoiding making any sudden movements or sounds will ensure your scaly friend feels comfortable and safe in your presence.
The more comfortable they become around you, the less likely they will bite!
Are Corn Snakes Aggressive?
Corn snakes are well-known far and wide as one of the least aggressive snakes by far!
In captivity, they are incredibly docile, which makes them such great pets for both beginner and advanced snake owners alike.
However, keep in mind corn snake babies and juveniles are somewhat more unpredictable than adults.
Their more nervous, defensive nature makes them slightly more difficult to handle until they become accustomed to interacting with people.
Careful handling early on in your baby corn snake’s life will help them gradually become tamer and less likely to bite over time.
Another critical factor is that all snakes, including rat snakes like corns, instinctively become more aggressive when feeding.
Be very careful when interacting with your snake during feeding times, as they will occasionally mistakenly strike at you if you get too close.
This isn’t intentional but rather a natural behavior when feeding.
Even in the wild, corn snakes avoid being aggressive towards humans and large animals in general.
They are comparatively small snakes at only around 2 to 4 pounds and 3 to 6’ feet in length, so they only hunt small rodents.
They can’t efficiently take down anything much larger than a rat.
Also, as we touched on earlier, corn snakes cannot produce any functional venom, and their teeth are tiny and brittle.
Because of this, they use constriction to take down a prey rather than striking at them directly with their teeth.
These small, thin, needle-like teeth, it turns out, are perfect for grabbing onto small prey like mice and rats!
But your snake knows it has no chance of swallowing you whole, so they will almost always avoid being aggressive.
If anything, corn snakes are far more fearful than aggressive, which does occasionally cause them to bite out of anxiety.
Typically, even if they strike at a human, a single defensive bite is all they can manage before darting away in fear.
Are Corn Snakes Venomous Or Poisonous?
Corn snakes are not venomous.
They are classified within the Colubridae family of snakes.
These types of snakes are collectively known as Colubrids, and virtually all of them (aside from a few outliers, like the rare and highly reclusive boomslang) are entirely non-venomous.
Additionally, corn snakes are not poisonous, and there are almost no genuinely poisonous snakes, to begin with.
This is because of the critical distinction between venom and poison.
At this point, it would be helpful to go over a quick refresher on the difference between venom and poison in animals.
While the two terms are often used interchangeably, they have very different meanings.
A venomous animal uses some kind of mechanism to inject their venom, such as snake fangs, barbs, or stingers.
Venom must be injected.
However, a poisonous animal typically has no means of actually injecting their venom; instead, they house it within their bodies or, occasionally, secrete it from their skin.
While both venom and poison are harmful toxins, the difference lies in how they are delivered.
A beneficial rule of thumb to remember is: if it bites or stings you and you become sick, the animal is venomous.
If you bite or touch it and become sick, the animal is poisonous.
Some animals are both, and a few snakes are solely venomous or, in even rarer cases, solely poisonous, but almost no snakes are venomous and poisonous.
So, in short, corn snakes lack both venom and poison.
They don’t need either, as they constrict and swallow their prey rather than incapacitate it with a venomous bite.
How Painful Is A Corn Snake Bite?
Corn snake bites are not particularly painful.
Reptile owners commonly compare a typical corn snake bite to a small paper cut.
While corn snakes’ teeth are rather sharp, they are brittle and thin and unable to bite very deep.
This results in the typical “paper cut” feeling when experiencing a corn snake bite.
If anything, you’re more likely to be shocked than hurt when bitten by a corn snake.
Since corn snakes are constrictors, they haven’t developed very strong or functional teeth.
They lack fangs since they don’t have venom.
Their tiny teeth are mainly used to grab small prey like rodents, not humans.
Their bites usually will draw a small amount of blood due to their sharpness, but the wound itself will be very superficial.
However, it is still very important to care for a corn snake bite properly, regardless of if you’re bitten by a wild corn snake or your pet.
Their mouths often harbor bacteria you won’t want to get into an open wound, even a small one like a corn snake bite.
Be sure to wash, clean, and bandage the bite carefully until it fully heals, and seek medical attention if it looks particularly swollen, red, or infected.
Check carefully for any shed teeth, so you’re able to remove them if they are lodged into the wound.
Can A Corn Snake Kill A Cat?
In all likelihood, your cat is more likely to kill a corn snake than the other way around!
However, it’s a good idea to keep cats, especially small kittens, away from them.
Corn snakes are small, lightweight snakes with thin, short, brittle teeth incapable of producing or injecting venom.
They don’t hunt solely by striking at their prey; they latch onto their prey initially, but they then wrap their bodies around the animal, constricting it tighter and tighter until it suffocates.
Once the animal has died, the corn snake will swallow it whole.
There are plenty of reasons why a corn snake usually won’t bother going after a cat.
First, cats are usually a lot larger than corn snakes, and these snakes understand instinctively they aren’t going to have a very good time attempting to constrict them.
However, a baby or juvenile corn snake will sometimes be more reckless due to their fearful nature.
Even then, though, baby corn snakes are incapable of taking down much more than a baby mouse, so a defensive bite is probably all they’ll ever get away with if they strike at a fully-grown cat.
Check out our guide to feeding corn snakes for more info on how and what they eat.
When it comes to kittens, though, a corn snake will be a lot more likely to take a chance on hunting them, especially if they’re hungry and haven’t eaten in a while.
Regardless, keep your cat far away from your snake, no matter the size of either animal.
The two will likely just stress one another out if they have the chance to interact with each other, even if no bites or strikes occur.
On the other hand, adult cats are strong, skilled hunters who are more than capable of taking down birds, lizards, frogs, mice, rats, and, occasionally, even snakes if they’re desperate enough.
In most cases, if a cat comes face-to-face with a corn snake, the snake will come out of the encounter a lot worse for wear than the cat.
How Should You Treat A Corn Snake Bite?
If bitten by a corn snake, the most important thing to remember is not panic.
Corn snakes are not venomous, and any bite you sustain from one will be a very superficial wound.
However, corn snake bites do often break the skin and draw blood, so they should be treated promptly to prevent infection.
Corn snakes’ mouths are packed with icky bacteria, mostly from their dead and decomposing prey.
If bitten by a wild corn snake, move away from the animal and allow it to escape to safety.
Don’t continue handling it.
If you get bitten by your pet corn snake, allow them to retreat to the safety of their enclosure to calm down–avoid overhandling them, even if you know your snake’s behavior very well.
They are likely very nervous after biting, which leaves them prone to biting again.
Wash the bite wound off with warm, clean water.
Rinse it with an antiseptic like hydrogen peroxide or betadine.
Applying an antibiotic ointment like Neosporin to the wound is also highly recommended.
If needed, bandage the wound and continue checking and cleaning it regularly until it has fully healed.
Seek medical treatment if the bite looks particularly swollen, red, or infected.
Preventing Corn Snake Bites
Preventing corn snake bites is fairly simple, as corn snakes are far from the most “bitey” snakes to begin with.
Still, there are a few precautions to remember as a snake owner when dealing with corn snakes to prevent them from perceiving you as a threat and biting defensively.
When it comes to wild corn snakes, avoid handling them or stressing them out with sudden movements or loud noises.
This is especially important with baby and juvenile snakes, as they are far more prone to biting than the more docile adults.
When handling your pet corn snake, it is sometimes helpful to wear leather gloves for protection, at least early on when you and your scaly pet are still getting comfortable with one another’s presence.
Aside from this, avoid squeezing, shaking, or dropping your snake.
Handle them quietly, slowly, and very carefully to build trust over time with your snake.
Keep them away from your face, or anywhere else you wouldn’t want to potentially get bitten.
Finally, avoid handling them for more than 10 to 15 minutes at a time, at least at first, as some snakes get stressed quickly by being overhandled.