If you’ve bought your very first baby corn snake, congratulations. Corn snakes make great pets. But since you’ve never had a snake before, it’s natural to wonder whether your baby corn snake will bite you—and whether their bite can do you any harm.
Some baby corn snakes bite more than adults because they’re not used to people yet. However, corn snakes are non-venomous, and a baby corn’s bite can hardly break the skin with its small teeth.
A baby corn snake is born with fangs, but they aren’t much use against a ‘threat’ of your size. Corn snakes don’t even have recognizable fangs, unlike venomous snakes such as rattlesnakes—so they aren’t anything to be afraid of as a beginner snake owner.
Do Baby Corn Snakes Have Teeth?
Yes, baby corn snakes have teeth. All snakes are born with teeth, whether you mean regular teeth further back in the mouth or the two fangs up front. Corn snakes don’t have fangs like rattlesnakes and other venomous snakes do; they have rows of teeth on either side. These small teeth face backward, so that prey has a harder time getting away when they’re bitten.
What about baby corn snakes? Yes, they’re born with teeth too. That’s because no corn snakes—in fact, no snake species at all—feed on milk or any similar kind of ‘baby’ food. Right from the moment they hatch, baby corn snakes have to be ready and willing to hunt for their first meal. They’ll normally eat within a week of hatching, after they shed for the first time.
Are Baby Corn Snakes Venomous?
Corn snakes are a non-venomous species of snake. Instead, they kill their prey through constriction. This is where the snake grabs onto their prey and wraps around it. Contrary to popular belief, they don’t choke their prey. Instead, their coils are tight enough to stop the prey’s heart from pumping blood. This can quickly cause unconsciousness and death.
Because they’re not venomous, corn snakes lack both venom glands and recognizable fangs. This means that even if they wanted to envenomate you, they can’t, whether baby or adult.
Instead, they have rows of more simple teeth that run along the sides of their mouth. You can tell the difference between venomous and nonvenomous snakes like these because while venomous snakes leave twin fang marks, non-venomous snakes leave a horseshoe-shaped pattern of tooth marks when they bite you.
Are Baby Corn Snakes Aggressive?
Corn snakes aren’t aggressive, and baby corn snakes are no exception. It all depends on the snake, because some are more aggressive than others. Some seem to enjoy being handled more than others, for example, and trying to handle a snake that’s not used to you will encourage them to be aggressive towards you. The same applies if you don’t follow proper handling techniques, e.g., by holding the snake too tightly, or moving them around too quickly.
The bottom line is that a snake is only as confident and comfortable as its owner. That means that if you’re aggressive, they’ll be aggressive right back at you.
Do Baby Corn Snake Bites Hurt?
So, baby corn snakes have teeth and will bite you if they feel threatened. But do hatchling corn snake bites hurt? No, they don’t. It’s more like being bitten by a kitten or similar tiny animal than it is being bitten by an adult snake.
That’s partly because corn snake teeth are quite short anyway; they don’t have long fangs like other, venomous snakes do. An adult’s teeth are ¼ of an inch long, and a baby’s teeth are much shorter. This means that when a baby corn snake bites you, they rarely break your skin. Instead, it feels a little like Velcro hooks pushed against you.
What Should I Do If a Baby Corn Snake Bites Me?
A baby corn snake bite doesn’t hurt, but it can shock you if you’re not expecting it. That’s why your initial reaction might be less-than-perfect.
But it’s essential to rein in your reaction and behave calmly when you’re bitten, whether by a baby or an adult. If a baby corn snake bites you, stick to the following guidelines:
- Don’t get angry. While snakes can’t hear you scream and shout—their hearing isn’t that great, except when it comes to vibrations in the ground—they will react if you start flailing and threatening them. This would only make the problem worse.
- If the snake latches on to you, don’t pull them away. Because a corn snake’s teeth face backward, simply tugging at them to pull them out will hurt both you and the snake. It will make the bite marks bigger, and will almost certainly rip out your baby corn snake’s teeth. This could lead to mouth rot, which can be fatal.
- Instead, hold them gently at the back of their head. Push their head downwards, i.e., towards the bite instead of away. This will disengage their teeth, and you should then be able to put them back down.
- Whatever you do, don’t ‘punish’ your snake in any way. First of all, they’re acting from instinct, so even if they understood what you were shouting at them, they can’t help it. Second, snakes don’t have advanced brains; they don’t understand cause and effect. This means they can’t put two and two together, and understand that they’re being punished because they bit you. The whole idea of punishing them is therefore pointless.
This gets easier if you’re an experienced owner and you’ve been bitten before. It’s the shock, more than anything, which can lead to you responding without due care.
How to Stop a Baby Corn Snake Biting
Baby corn snakes can sometimes bite more frequently than adults. That’s because they’re not used to people yet. All they see when they see you are a big threat that they don’t recognize.
How to Handle a Baby Corn Snake
If your corn snake hasn’t ever been regularly handled, this can make them more prone to biting. That’s because they see you as a threat.
When you go to handle them, they may pull away and try to burrow under their substrate, or hide in their hide. Or, if they’re feeling brave, they might try and warn you off with a bite.
If that’s the case, you could purchase and use a snake stick. These are for removing snakes from their enclosure without having to touch them. Once you take them out of their enclosure, this can make them feel less cage aggressive, and they might get less flighty. Alternatively, ignore their aggression and pick them up, holding them gently.
A few golden rules for corn snake handling include:
- Don’t handle the snake for a couple of days before baby corn snakes are due to be fed, or until they’ve digested and been to the toilet.
- When holding your baby corn snake, don’t grip them to stop them from moving. Allow them to move freely from one hand to another, up your arm, or around your neck.
- If they start constricting your hand, arm, or even neck, don’t panic. Unravel them starting from the tip of their tail. This works on all corn snakes, both big and small.
For more detailed tips, see one of our handling guides.
How to Raise Corn Snakes That Won’t Bite
Corn snakes generally don’t change in temperament for no reason. However, if you do give them a reason to, then over the years, they’ll develop traits: comfortable being held, comfortable in open spaces, comfortable in enclosed spaces, or cage aggressive.
With regular handling, your corn snake will gradually become accustomed to you and won’t bite you anymore. The following rules will help them grow into a snake that doesn’t bite:
- Handle them regularly.
- When you feed your snake, don’t feed them inside their regular enclosure. Instead, get a regular Tupperware tub (or similar) with air holes in the top. Place them inside along with their prey, and put the top on. You don’t need substrate or a heat mat, because they won’t be in there for long. This is to prevent them from associating their own enclosure with feeding; this will stop them lashing out at you when you try and pick them up.
- Keep your snake in optimal conditions. Both the temperature and humidity should be set at certain levels, and you should feed them according to a regular schedule. Anything other than perfect conditions causes stress, and according to LiveScience, the more stressed they are, the more frequently they’ll bite.
- Make sure that their enclosure has plenty of ground cover. In the wild, corn snakes are most comfortable in the undergrowth where they can’t be easily spotted. In a bare and barren cage, their instincts will tell them that they’re vulnerable to predators. Use foliage, real or fake, to make them feel more secure.
- Avoid keeping your snake in the same enclosure as other snakes. Corn snakes aren’t social animals, and don’t benefit in any way from being kept with other snakes (of the same species or otherwise). Each pet snake should have their own enclosure.
If you follow just these few rules, then it’s likely that your snake will grow up to be well-adjusted—only very infrequently feeling the need to lash out. Start as early as you can with your baby corn snake, and you’ll have a well-behaved pet in no time.
Baby Corn Snake Bite Treatment
Since they aren’t venomous, a baby corn snake bite won’t cause you any real damage. But that doesn’t mean you can simply leave the bite be, and expect it to heal immediately.
If they managed to break the skin, there’s a higher chance of infection than usual (because of the bacteria that you naturally find in any snake’s mouth).
That’s why we advise that you follow this corn snake bite treatment routine.
- Clean the exterior of the wound. Wipe away any blood and saliva from the area.
- Use a disinfectant intended for use on wounds. Follow the directions on the label.
- Apply a dressing to the wound to prevent any future infection. Replace when the dressing becomes dirty.
While the wound itself will be quite small, as we said, it’s crucial that you disinfect it because a corn snake’s mouth is full of bacteria. If the area does become infected, you’ll be able to tell because it will be red and swollen.
You may also notice whiteish or yellow pus seeping from the wound. If this occurs, continue to apply disinfectant as per the instructions on the label, and replace the dressing each night. If the infection doesn’t clear, see a doctor for a prescription of antibiotics.
This all makes baby corn snakes sound quite dangerous. They aren’t; this is just best practice with any wound of this nature. The majority of the time, your baby corn snake won’t even be able to break your skin, in which case the above routine would be unnecessary.