Red Cornsnake, Pantherophis guttatus

Occurs mainly in the southern two-thirds of East Tennessee and the southwestern corner of the state. Also known as the “red rat snake.”

Description: A long, slender snake (30.0. to 48.0 inches in length) with considerable variation in color and pattern. Red blotches, outlined in black, occur down the middle of the back over a gray to orangish background color. Head has a characteristic spearhead point, which meets between the eyes. Belly is a bold black-and-white checkerboard pattern with striping under the tail. Young are darker and less colorful than adults.

Similar Species: Scarlet, Red, and Eastern Milksnake, and Mole Kingsnake lack striping under tails. Young Gray Ratsnakes have no spearpoint between the eyes.

Habitat: Found in a variety of habitats including wood lots, rocky hillsides, fields, farms, and suburban settings, but more abundant in habitats with pine trees. Occurs in barns, abandoned buildings, trees, and stumps; also occurs under leaf litter, soil, and other objects.

Diet: Feeds heavily on small rodents; also eats treefrogs, lizards, birds, and bats.

Breeding information: Adults breed in spring. Females lay 5-30 eggs in sawdust piles or rotten log debris during the summer.

Status in Tennessee: Common, but not often encountered.

Fun Facts:

  • Red Cornsnakes are nocturnal and spend a lot of time crawling through rodent burrows.
  • They constrict their prey by wrapping one or more coils of the body around it and squeezing.

Best places to see in Tennessee: Old barns or buildings near mixed pine-hardwood forests.


Conant, R. and Collins, J. 1998. Peterson Field Guides: Reptiles and Amphibians (Eastern/Central North America). Houghton Mifflin Company, New York. 616pp.

Jensen, J. B., Camp C. D., Gibbons, W., and Elliot, M. J. 2008. Amphibians and Reptiles of Georgia, University of Georgia Press, Athens, GA. 575pp.