Rat Snake vs Corn Snake (Differences & Similarities)

You’ve just spotted something slithering in your backyard.

Is it a rat snake or a corn snake? Are they the same thing? Should you be afraid of it?

In this article, we’ll be discussing the differences between corn snakes and rat snakes and also debunking myths about these reptiles.

Key Takeaway:

Rat snakes are medium-large constrictor snakes found in the Northern Hemisphere. They live for over 30 years in captivity and are docile pets. Corn snakes are part of the rat snake family. They have orange or brown bodies and checkered bellies. They live for 23 years in captivity.

There is so much more we can say about the differences between rat snakes and corn snakes. These reptiles are really quite fascinating.

Stick with us as we go through everything you must know about these snakes.

rat snake vs corn snake

Rat Snake vs Corn Snake

So, you’ve just spotted a snake in your yard.

But is it a rat snake or a corn snake? Are rat snakes and corn snakes the same?

In this article, we will discuss the difference between a corn snake and a rat snake. This will help you not only to work out which reptile has made its way into your yard but will also help you when choosing a new pet snake.

Let’s start the comparison by defining the two.

A rat snake is a rodent-eating constrictor snake. The corn snake falls into this group of species of snakes.
A corn snake is a part of the rat snake family. It is not dangerous to humans and has an Indian corn-like pattern on its belly.

Let’s get to know these snakes a little better by comparing them in the following areas.

  • Appearance
  • Family
  • Location
  • Prey
  • Life span
  • Danger
  • Nature
  • Predators


There are many different species of rat snakes in all different sizes and colors. But rat snakes tend to be medium to large in size.

The arboreal rat snake has a green body with a red or brown tail. The gray rat snake has gray scales in large patches on its body.

The body length of most corn snakes is between 2 and 6 feet. The body of the snake is usually orange or brown.

The belly of the snake has a distinctive black-and-white checkerboard pattern. This species has bold black outlines around red blotches down their backs.

corn snake black and white checkerboard pattern

This red rat snake also has a stripe extending from the back of its eye past the edge of its jaw. Corn snakes, like other rat snakes, do not have fangs but rather small teeth.

Rat snakes come in many different colors depending on their species. Corn snakes are orange or brown with a checkerboard pattern on their bellies.


Rat snakes are from the Colubridae family and the Colubrinae subfamily.

Corn snakes (Pantherophis guttatus) are also from the Colubridae family.

A corn snake is also often called a red rat snake. They are part of the rat snake family.

Both rat snakes and corn snakes are from the Colubridae family.


Rat snakes are commonly found all around the Northern Hemisphere. You’ll spot them in Central America and even in Southern Canada.

Corn snakes, on the other hand, only live in the United States. You will only find them in the Central and Southeastern United States.

Their highest concentration is in Florida, New Jersey, Louisiana, and Southern Wisconsin. You will find them in fields, forests, and even in abandoned buildings looking for easy prey like bird’s eggs and small mammals to eat.

You will find rat snakes in the Northern Hemisphere, whereas corn snakes are native to the United States only.


The corn snake and rat snake have a similar diet. Rat snakes tend to constrict their prey to kill it and then consume it.

Let’s take a look at their diet. Coming up next, you’ll see what adult and juvenile rat snakes eat:

Adult rat snakesJuvenile rat snakes
Live rodents like mice and ratsFrogs
Bird eggs like duck eggsLizards
Squirrels Other small rodents like mice and rats
Other snakes

Corn snakes constrict their prey to kill it and eat it. Here is a list of prey that adult and juvenile corn snakes tend to eat:

Adult corn snakesJuvenile corn snakes
Live rodents like mice and ratsFrogs
Birds like quail Lizards
Small mammals like squirrels
Bird eggs
Other small snakes

Rat snakes and corn snakes eat rodents, birds, bird eggs, and small mammals. While they are still juveniles, both rat snakes and corn snakes eat lizards and frogs.

rat snake eating

Life Span

Rat snakes tend to live for 10 to 15 years in the wild. In captivity, most rat snakes will live for 30 years or more.

A rat snake will live longer in captivity than it would in the wild, where it is constantly preyed on by hawks.

The exact life expectancy of the rat snake depends on its species. Here are some common rat snake species and their lifespans.

Rat snake speciesLife expectancy
Yellow rat snake (Eastern rat snake)Up to 20 years
Black rat snake10 to 15 years
Coral snakes10 to 15 years

In the wild, the corn snake species will live for 10 to 15 years. In captivity, they can live for about 23 years or even longer.

They live longer in captivity because they do not have to hide from potential predators and because they can get medical attention when they are sick.

Rat snakes have a longer average lifespan in captivity than corn snakes generally do.


We cannot say that rat snakes are completely non-venomous snakes. Some of the old world species of rat snakes possess very small amounts of venom that are not dangerous to humans.

The corn snake resembles a venomous snake, the copperhead. Because of this, people often kill these animals when they see them inhabit areas where humans live.

But in reality, the corn snake is a non-venomous species of snake.

Both rat snakes and corn snakes are not harmful to humans.


Is there a difference between corn snake and rat snake nature?

Rat snakes are very docile pets and are one of the most common reptile pets around the world. They are popular because they are easy to feed, gentle in nature, and non-poisonous.

Is there such a thing as a friendly corn snake?

Corn snakes are also very docile pets. They are great pets because of their tame nature.

Because corn snakes are so good at keeping numbers of wild rodent pests at bay, they are often left alone when found in corn grain stores.

Corn snakes are more common reptile pets than rat snakes because of their placid nature.


Rat snakes tend to have more predators when they are hatchlings and juveniles than they do when they are adult snakes. The burying beetle is a parasitoid of the rat snake and can destroy snake eggs.

Here is a list of some of a young rat snake’s predators:

  • Hawks
  • Foxes
  • Raccoons
  • Owls

Adult rat snakes have a different set of predators. Here are some of the animals they must avoid in the wild.

  • Raptors
  • Weasels
  • Coyotes
  • Badgers
  • Other snakes

Corn snakes have a number of predators in their natural habitat. These predators are after them both when they are young and when they are adult snakes.

Here is a list of some of the corn snake’s predators:

  • Foxes
  • Raptors
  • Opposums
  • Skunks
  • Bobcats
  • Weasels

Both corn snakes and rat snakes have many predators in their natural habitat. But the corn snake has more predators throughout its adult life.

Corn Snake vs Rat Snake – a Quick Comparison

Throughout this article, we have seen how rat snakes and corn snakes differ. Let’s now take a look at some of the highlights of the similarities and differences between the two.

Here’s everything you need to know about rat snakes and corn snakes in a nutshell.

In this section, inclu

Rat SnakesCorn snakes
They are medium to large constrictor snakesThey are constrictor snakes and measure 2 to 6 feet long
Part of the Colubridae family Part of the Colubridae family
Found in the Northern HemisphereFound in Central and Southeastern United States
Diet includes rodents and some mammalsDiet includes rodents and small mammals
Lifespan 10 to 15 years in the wild Lifespan 10 to 15 years in the wild
Not harmful to humansNot harmful to humans
Docile nature Docile nature
Many predators attack their youngMany predators target them throughout their lives

Fun Facts About Rat Snakes

Rat snakes are very interesting animals.

But how much do you know about them?

We’ve opened up our treasure trove of intriguing rat snake facts in this section. Let’s find out all the interesting quirks about these snakes.


  • There are between 40 and 55 known species of rat snakes.
  • Some species of rat snakes are called chicken snakes because they raid poultry yards.


  • Rat snakes live on every continent except Antarctica.
  • In the cold weather, some rat snakes will migrate to warmer climates. Others will hibernate.
  • Some rat snake species are ground-dwellers, while others are semi-arboreal. This helps them access bird eggs to eat. Many species are also very good swimmers and will lie at the edge of the water waiting for their prey.


  • Rat snakes produce an unpleasant-smelling musk to ward off predators. This musk is harmless.
  • To scare away predators, they will vibrate their tails in an attempt to mimic rattlesnakes.
  • Rat snakes have more predators when they are hatchlings and juveniles. While they are young, hawks, foxes, raccoons, owls, and other snakes target them.


  • Rat snakes are constrictors. They squeeze their prey to death before swallowing it whole.


  • Female rat snakes lay one or two clutches of eggs every year. Each clutch contains 12 to 20 eggs.
  • Baby beetles eat rat snake embryos. When they are hatchlings, they are often eaten by hawks and other snakes because the parent snakes do not look after them. But to ensure they have some protection after they’re born, female rat snakes will lay their eggs in a hidden spot.
  • Baby rat snakes are quite long as hatchlings. They usually measure around 33 cm.

Fun Facts About Corn Snakes

Corn snakes are popular pets worldwide.

But what makes these animals so fascinating?

Up next, we’ve listed every mind-boggling fact about corn snakes. Let’s go!


  • Some people think that the name “corn” was associated with this animal because they are often found in cornfields, but the name actually came from the resemblance of their underbellies to Indian corn.
  • Corn snakes resemble the venomous copperhead snake, and because of this, people often kill them when they find them.
  • The species name of the corn snake is Pantherophis guttatus. The word gutta in Latin means dappled or spotted. This refers to the dappled or spotted colored prints on the corn snake’s back.
corn snake with a black background


  • Corn snakes like temperate climates and brumate during the winter.


  • Corn snakes use their sense of smell primarily to guide them when hunting.
  • The striking range of the corn snake is 1/2 or 1/3 of their body length.
  • These snakes bite their prey to get a grip on it and then constrict themselves around it to kill it. But some corn snakes eat their prey live.
  • Corn snakes can go days or even a week without eating.


  • The reproductive season of corn snakes is from March to May.
  • Female snakes lay their eggs in a warm, moist, hidden spot.
  • The temperature has to be just right for the eggs to hatch. After a 10-week incubation period, the hatchlings break through the oblong, leathery eggs using an egg tooth.


  • Corn snakes are one of the most popular reptile pets, and new morphs become available every year. They are the second most popular snake pet, with ball pythons being the first.
  • Corn snakes are the most popular pet snakes in Brazil.
  • Corn snakes prefer to be alone as that makes it easier for them to hunt and hide. If you want to get a pet corn snake, it is best to just have one per terrarium.

FAQs About Rat Snakes and Corn Snakes

Do you have some burning questions you would like answered about rat snakes and corn snakes?

Then we’re sure we’ve got the answers listed right here. Keep on reading to find out more about these animals.

Why Are Corn Snakes Called Rat Snakes?

Corn snakes are called rat snakes because they come from the family of rat snakes. A rat snake is a whole group of species, while corn snakes are in that same group.

Corn snakes come from the Colubridae family.

Is a Gray Rat Snake a Corn Snake?

The gray rat snake is not a corn snake. Gray rat snakes are American rat snakes found in the Eastern and Central parts of the United States.

This snake is commonly 3.25 to 6 feet in length and is covered in gray scales. The patterns on its body do not tend to change much from when it is a juvenile to adulthood.

What Snake Is Mistaken For a Corn Snake?

The corn snake is usually mistaken for the venomous copperhead snake.

Because of being mistaken for this species of snake, the corn snake is often killed when found. This is a shame because the corn snake does a lot to reduce wild rodent pests in corn fields.

To avoid making the same mistake, look out for the differences between the two species. The following information will help you tell the two apart.

Corn snake description Copperhead snake description
Does not have fangs, only small teeth Has fangs
Black and white checkerboard pattern on its bellyReddish brown hourglass shapes around its side. Copper head.
Narrower head Bigger, triangular head
Narrower bodyBigger body
Redder and brighter in color Slightly duller in color
No heat sensing pits Has heat sensing pits
2 to 6 feet in length2.5 to 4.5 feet in length

How Do You Tell If a Snake Is a Corn Snake?

You will be able to tell a corn snake from other species of snakes by looking for its most common characteristics. Corn snakes are usually 2 to 6 feet in length.

Here are some other details about this snake species that will help you tell it apart from others.

  • They have small, round pupils.
  • Their bodies are orange or brown.
  • Their build and heads are slender.
  • They have a black and white checkered pattern on their bellies that is similar to Indian corn.
  • There are dark red blotches with black outlines going down their backs.

What are the Differences Between a Corn Snake and a Milk Snake?

There are many differences between corn snakes and milk snakes that will help you to tell one from the other. Here are some of them.

Corn snakes Milk snakes
Slightly duller colorsMore distinct, bolder colors and patterns
More than 800 color morphs24 color morphs
2 to 6 feet in length 2.5 to 3.5 feet in length
More docileMore temperamental
Lay more eggsLay fewer eggs
Easier to breedMore difficult to breed

Deciding Between Rat Snakes and Corn Snakes

Corn snakes are part of the rat snake family, but even still, there are a lot of differences between them. Although corn snakes are red rat snakes, there is a lot that makes them stand out as a species.

Are you choosing between a rat snake and a corn snake for your next pet?

Then allow this final comparison to help you decide which will be the right pet for you.

Choose a rat snake if you want a pet that is:

  • Medium to large in size
  • Easy to access anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere
  • Easy to feed. Rat snakes eat rodents.
  • A pet for life, with a lifespan of 30 years in captivity
  • Not harmful to humans
  • Tame
  • Less targeted by predators in its natural environment

Choose a corn snake if you want a pet that is:

  • 2 to 6 feet in length
  • Easy to access around Florida, New Jersey, and other southern parts of the United States
  • Easy to feed. The corn snake eats rodents.
  • A pet for life, with a lifespan of 23 years in captivity
  • Non-venomous and non-harmful to humans
  • Tame

Did you find the information in this article helpful?

At Oddly Cute Pets, we strive to provide you with the best information on rat snakes and corn snakes. For more guides on king snakes and how to take care of other species of snakes, check out our website.

Thanks for reading!

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