Corn snakes are generally gentle and docile, making them a popular choice for pet owners. Like many pets, they do have the potential for aggression, striking and biting, so use care when handling them. Understanding why your corn snake exhibits unusual behaviors will help you take an educated approach to interacting with and handling your pet.
Age and Environment
Hatchling and young corn snakes that are just learning their way in the world are naturally defensive and may appear nervous until they get accustomed to life with humans. Likewise, recently re-homed corn snakes adjusting to a new environment may also be initially skittish until they get used to their new space and get into a regular feeding schedule. It's best not to handle newcomers too much right away. Give them time to adapt and use gloves to protect against injury.
Many corn snakes begin to exhibit a nervous or aggressive predatory behavior when they're hungry. When it's approaching time to feed your snake, you may find him roaming his tank, actively searching for prey. Transfer him to his feeding quarters and offer him a meal. He'll likely settle down once he’s been fed. If your corn snake continues the behavior after eating, there's a possibility you aren't feeding him enough and he's still hungry. Consult your veterinarian about the appropriately sized rodents to offer your corn snake based on his age and size.
Corn snakes shed their skin when they grow, and during the days leading up to a shed, the skin starts to lift away from the body. This includes the skin covering your snake’s eyes, which may seem to have a milky bluish haze. This process affects your snake’s vision, making him extra wary. Because his vision is compromised, he may be prone to strike. Avoid handling your snake during this time, and hold off on feeding him until after he sheds. This is particularly important if you feed live prey, which can potentially hurt your snake if he can’t see well enough to dispatch it quickly.
Your corn snake’s behavior may be a reflection of the way you're interacting with him. When you approach your corn snake to handle him, do so from the side rather than from the top, so he doesn’t view you as a predator. Any hesitation on your part can make your corn snake nervous. A corn snake accustomed to regular handling and feeding is less likely to be aggressive. If the unexplained aggressive behavior continues, it should be addressed by a vet who specializes in snakes and reptiles.