I have an idea for a corn snake breeding project, and I essentially have no idea where to begin. I want to make a line of large corn snakes. I want to line breed them for size, and I love wild type corns.
There’s more than one problem with this idea. I have no idea what I’m doing and I live west of the Rockies, for starters.
Does anyone have thoughts on sources for LARGE corn snakes? Where, within their wild range, would the biggest specimens tend to be found? Is there a legal, ethically acceptable way to obtain field collected corn snakes from those areas?
I was gifted a group of amazing, large, wild type corn snakes about 20 years ago and only kept them for about 4 years. I really regret letting that group go. They were captive bred from wild stock, had some really interesting color palettes, crazy aztec zigzag patterns, and they were downright feisty compared to the chill corns most of us own. I regret letting them go more than I regret letting go of any expensive designer morph I ever bought. They had big personalities.
I’m interested in large specimens of other common colubrid species, too. Sinaloan Milks and Blue Beauties are high on that list. Does anyone else have project like this going already? What up, what up? I want to make large colubrids. And yes, to preemptively answer the obvious but inevitable follow up question; Eventually I’ll have Indigos, because they are the most amazing large colubrid in the whole silly world.
So you want to get wild caught specimens for your breeding projects, right? First make sure it’s legal to collect them, if you’re not sure then you can call/email the DNR or Department of Fish and Game. I would think this project would work, though it would take a while. As long as you kept the offspring for a little while and kept breeding the largest back together and trying to avoid too much inbreeding you should get some good results. It’s the same as how localities work, you get some large ones, you get some small ones, and some have different patterns. If you decide to try this keep us updated.
I have actually given this project some thought as well but I am a small-scale breeder and I’ll likely never get around to it. Here is some food for thought anyway :). IMHO, trying to use wild caught will not work. First, you have to be concerned with parasites, diseases, and legality. Second, wild animals frequently do not attain their maximum size potential because conditions in the wild are so variable from year to year. Captive-raised animals have a much greater chance of attaining large size (assuming it is their particular genetic make-up to begin with). Lastly, even if you are able to locate an area with a reputation for large corns, can legally collect there, and are confident you could overcome issues with disease and parasites, there is no guarantee you would actually be able to catch individuals that would suit your purposes. So, assuming you are on-board with that logic, what I was considering, and what I would recommend to you, is to simply keep an eye out for larger than average captive bred and born adult individuals for sale. I see these from time to time on this site and elsewhere. Often they are older breeders that may not be viable for many more years but if you can get one clutch, then you are on your way. As for getting back to “wild-type” coloration, that should be easily achieved in as little as 1 or 2 generations if you choose your pairings carefully to avoid creating corns that are homo for recessive genes and avoid buying corns with dominant genes altogether. I have 3 corns (a Tessera, a Snow and a Lavender) that are each over 600g and nearly 5 feet in length (i.e., larger than average). I plan to go another direction with my breeding plans in a year or so and will be selling 2 of the 3 at that point (the Tessera is pet I could never sell) so keep an eye out. Cheers!
You could always take the long route. Corns get up to size pretty quickly. Selectively breed over generations. I did that when I was younger with a few types of snake, not for size but colour. It took time but i got some relay good results. I also sometimes produced some relay big corn snakes though on occasion. I could have selectively bread them for size.
It is very hard to selectively breed animals for larger size, much harder than breeding for color or pattern traits. The size of a snake is genetic to some degree, but it is also heavily influenced by how much food the snake has eaten and other environmental factors. Unless you raised all of the snakes in the project from babies, and they all ate exactly the same amount of food, and you kept extensive weight records, you can’t know if an individual is large because of genetics, and therefor worth breeding, or because of it’s feeding history. This is why there are very few projects out there, of any species, that line breed for size.
I agree it with all of that, it would be very hard, that’s why i said it would be a long route and didn’t bother myself.
But they do slow down growing when adult so you would have to wait a long time to see any difference, and some lines I had were on average bigger than others as quite mature adults with the same environment and feeding schedule. Just saying its possible and probably less variables and problems than going for wild caught. But yes very long hall.
I would strongly prefer to have some captive bred animals that attain large sizes, but starting with legally field collected stock that are known to be large in the wild would be great too. I think some folks have taken me at my word that I don’t know what I’m doing, that was more of a self-deprecating tongue-in-cheek attempt at appearing humble. I hatched my first reptile eggs in 1992, I’m not new to this, but I genuinely appreciate you all taking the time to recite all the stock warnings for junior keepers and breeders. I sincerely do, because some of the advice about wild stock is very important, especially for less experienced folks.
Some of the responders skipped over parts of the original post, but that’s to be expected.
Not into hybrids, I don’t even like scaleless corns, because as I understand it that gene came from P. emoryi. That’s part of the point of being interested in wild or near-wild stock, to avoid polluted lines.
I disagree with the reasoning that because this is not a common project that it is not possible. I appreciate how one might arrive at that conclusion, but it’s flawed. Bigger stock tends to produce bigger offspring, and line breeding works. I know it’s possible. I know there are some big specimens out there, I was hoping to hear from folks who have an unusually large example of “Species X” and/or tales of places where snakes are bigger than normal.
I’m going to embark on this project either way. I’ll post updates as it progresses. I’m talking about a 25-30 year project, no sweat on the long haul. I have all the patience.
One of my eventual breeding goals (if this all works out of course only just got my first Lock recently lol) is to breed Loooong corns. Unfortunately this means not really knowing the length of a snake until they are well into adulthood. I had considered cross breeding with something like a pine snake or bull snake just to introduce genes that could give length (and maybe bulk) but I know the hybrid game is something people can be iffy on.
I think the breeding for size game requires that you be prepared to holdback multiple generations and grow them out. Please don’t do the hybrid thing, if you want a big colubrid stick to Bullsnakes or go get an Indigo! Just my $0.02: If you think about it for a while I think you’ll arrive at the same conclusion I have. It is not an ethical practice.
Our own @thebeardedherper can chime in on the hybrid debate. He breeds hybrids, and so long as you list what it is and make sure you don’t breed two snakes that are already basically identical (Eastern rat snakes and corn snakes for instance) then I don’t see the harm. Especially if you are just breeding for your own collection. To my knowledge there are already natural hybrids that happen in the wild of a few rat snakes.
So hybrids aside since that’s not really qhat the op was asking about and I’m not sure where they came up, I recently acquired some bull snakes for their size potential alone, let me explain. I searched for a breeder who was consistently producing excessively large offspring from exceptionally large parents and grandparents. The breeder i found told me that the way he has been able to consistently pick out and hold back babies that will get the largest is to wait for their first shed and count the belly scales. When you know the belly scale counts and can pick out those with the highest counts you have the best chance of bigger snakes. Now getting a corn snake breeder to count belly scales for you for a potential deal may be difficult but thats my .02 on it.
Not keen on hybrids myself unless there natural. I used to keep greenish rat snakes and love them. There technically a naturally occurring hybrid rat snake. But if people like to hybridise snakes that wouldn’t normally, I have nothing against it. As long as its labeled as such.
I don’t know from my own experience, but I have heard they are likely to be infertile anyway.
Awesome tip on the belly scale count, I really appreciate that, @thebeardedherper
I had a Bull snake named Ferdinand once upon a time, good stuff. I hope you feel better soon, both because I understand debilitating illness and because I’d love to see more of your Big Bulls.
I stay away from the hybrids debate as much as I can. My views are my own, and I don’t need to beat anyone on the head with them. Who knows, I might end up making Carpondros (Carpet x Green Tree Python) someday, I can’t say I’m not interested in them.
I apologize for asking you not to do that, it really isn’t my place. Folks can do what they like, I’m not here to tell anyone what to do. Make all the hybrids you want, Pituophis catenifer and P. guttatus are two of my favorite species anyway, clutch em up! I would be interested to know if they are indeed sterile. I think Jungle Corns are sterile, right? (I said some stuff about them in another thread, and I think I was wrong. Sometimes I talk out of my butt.)
I don’t disagree that there are acceptably ethical approaches, but I would counter-argue those practices don’t always get upheld forever. If there’s money in it, people usually find a way to bend rules or, in this case, warp best practices…something like that.
One thing I really don’t like is: There are basically no pure corn snakes on the market these days because Creamsicle (from P emoryi) Ultra (from…some other rat snake, P spiloides?) and Scaleless (P emoryi again) are from other species. The dollar wins, natural history loses. Knowable provenance would be nice, but it ain’t happening in corn snakes.
I sure wish I had kept those big wild type aztec corns, they were awesome.
Greenish rats are not hybrids. To be a hybrid it needs to be 2 different species. Greenish rats are a mix of the black rat snake (Eastern rat snake) and the yellow rat snake (Eastern rat snake). The black rat snake, yellow rat snake, and Everglades rat snake have all been reclassified as Pantherophis alleghaniensis and are (from what biologists can tell) the same species. They are just different colors due to different ranges (not unlike rosy boas and a few other colubrids).
To my knowledge all new world hybrids are not sterile. It is when you mix old world and new world that you have issues with them being sterile. @thebeardedherper mentioned that at some point in the past.