Friday, October 10, 2014

I would like a Dreamsicle, No wait, a Creamsicle please.

When I first started working at World Bird Sanctuary I was not very knowledgeable about snakes and was not very interested in them either. 

Over the years I became more acquainted with the different types of education snakes in our Office of Wildlife Learning Nature Center.  We have a Green-tree Python, Albino Burmese Python, Colombian Boa Constrictor, two Bull Snakes, a Royal Python, and a Creamsicle Corn Snake, Pantherophis guttatus, which I must admit is my favorite.  She is so friendly and beautiful!  I know you’ll fall in love with her too after you read this blog about her and her species.  Her name is Maize and I think she is just a wonderful animal!

Corn Snakes are found in the eastern and southeastern areas of the United States; they are carnivores, which means they eat other animals. Their diet in the wild varies, depending on age and surroundings.  Young Corn Snakes feed on lizards and tree frogs, but adult Corn Snakes will eat bats, birds, mice and rats.  In captivity, they are fed rats or mice, depending on their size.  Maize is given frozen then thawed mice, and she loves to eat!  She snatches the first one very quickly from the food tongs and swallows it whole.  With the others, she generally takes her time but will eat all the mice we offer her.  We normally give her 5-6 mice depending on their size, and we feed Maize once every two weeks.  She is currently 4 feet long.  Corn Snakes can reach up to 6 feet in length and up to 300-400 grams (approximately 10.5 – 15 oz.) and are usually orange to brownish-yellow, with large, black-edged red blotches in the middle of their back.  They have kernel shaped markings that look like Indian corn, or maize, on their belly, and that’s how they came by their name.

Nesting sites include rotting stumps, or piles of decaying vegetation. The clutch (group of eggs) size ranges from 10-30 oblong white eggs.  The eggs are laid during May through July and then hatch during July through September. The hatchlings are only 10-16 inches long.  The parents do not care for them at all.  The female simply lays the eggs and leaves.  Lifespan in captivity is 23-25 years and 4-5 years in the wild.  Maize is 3 years old this year.  She was hatched in 2011 by a Missouri snake breeder.  Maize came to WBS to be an education animal.  She travels and appears in many World Bird Sanctuary educational programs, including Reptales, Birdday parties, Amazing Animal Encounters, and many more!

Corn Snakes come in numerous natural color morphs, such as Normal (wildtype), Miami Phase, Okeetee, Candycane, Reverse Okeetee, Fluorescent orange, Sunglow, Bloodred, Crimson, Anerythristic, Charcoal, Caramel, Lavender, Cinder, Kastanie, Hypomelanistic, Ultra, Ultramel, Dilute, Sunkissed, Lava, and Stargazing.  There are also different pattern morphs, such as Motley, Stripe, Diffusion, Sunkissed, Aztec, Zigzag, and Banded.  All these natural color morphs make corn snakes camouflaged in their environment, for they are preyed upon by many mammals and birds of prey.  There are also compound morphs, which are produced by captive breeders by placing certain natural color morphs together.  There are tens of thousands of compound morphs, but I'm only going to list a few of the most popular ones.  These include Snow, Blizzard, Ghost, Phantom, Pewter, Butter, Amber, Plasma, Opal, Granite, and Fire. 

And finally there are hybrids, meaning captive breeders cross corn snakes with other snakes in the Pantherophis, Lampropeltis, or Pituophis family.  These corn snakes can produce color and pattern variations called Jungle, Tri color Jungle Corns, Turbo Corn, Brook Korn, and finally, a Creamsicle Corn snake, which is what our Maize is. 

So, as you can see from above, there are many different types out there.  Creamsicle Corn Snakes are a hybrid that is the result of breeding an Emory’s Rat snake with an albino Corn Snake.  I recommend looking online to see the other color morphs that are out there.  Below is a picture of Maize and some other ones:

Maize is available for adoption in our Adopt a “Bird” (in this case “Snake”) program.  To find out more information, call 636-861-3225.  All adoption donations are tax deductible.  This season she can be seen at the Nature Center at the World Bird Sanctuary which is open daily from 8am-5pm. 

Maize is a very beautiful snake.  You can even pet her!  Just ask one of the Naturalists. 

Submitted by Lisbeth Hodges, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

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