A beginners guide to safe ways of sexing your corn snake.

      You will possibly have heard the terms ‘popping’ and ‘probing’, both these are reasonably accurate ways of determining the gender of a snake. The only problem being that if attempted by the inexperienced, both techniques can result in injury to the animal. If you continue to keep snakes it is probable that you will eventually be taught one or both of these ways, but it is important that the teacher is an established reptile keeper. Don’t just buy a set of probes and start poking about.

         A far safer way of assessing the sex of your corn snake is to perform a scale count. To use this method requires three things, patience, good eyesight and a complete slough from your snake. The idea is simple, you just count the two rows of scales on the underside of the snake, from the vent to the end of the tail. Males have longer tails and therefore more scales. If the total of the two rows is 130 or less then it’s probably a girl, 140 or more its a boy. Counts between 130 and 140 could be either, I never said ‘the method was foolproof’. Trying to perform a scale count on the live snake would prove entertaining, but probably impossible, so count the scales on the shed skin. If your eyesight is as bad as mine, you can improve on the technique by scanning the slough, enlarging the image on your computer and counting the scales on screen! It would seem prudent at this stage to repeat, this is only a guide, if you intend to breed from the snake it is wise to get an experienced herpetologist to probe it for you, when it’s about breeding size. The figures given only apply to corn snakes (Elaphe guttata guttata), the idea is sound when applied to other species, but the scale count figures are different.

         If you are ‘into’ alternative technology then the following method may be of interest. You need a box about 60 cm long x 20 cm wide, the height is unimportant. A piece of reflective material and 30 cm of brake pipe (this can be found on a dark night, under your neighbour's car). Fix the reflective material to the inside of one end of the box. Bore two holes in the sides of the box at the other end and thread the brake pipe through these holes. The pipe should be about 3 cm from the end of the box and about 3 cm clear of the base. Place the young snake in the centre of your box and wait. If it goes and leans on the bar, it’s a male. If it goes and admires itself in the mirror, it’s a female. I have to point out that this method is only successful if performed in the morning of the first day, of the fourth month of the year! 

Return to Care Sheets page           David Kershaw  

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