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Preparing for Courtship
Female corn snakes come out of their yearly brumation (or cooling off) period after three to four months and are ravenous for food. After eating consistently for a short time, they will do their pre-breeding shed. This attracts the male corn snakes, who are drawn to a pheromone found in the skin of reproductive females. Males do not neccessarily wait until after their first shed of the season to become interested in mating, and in many cases will start courtship behaviour before they have even gone through it. They may participate in battling behaviour among themselves when females are present to establish which is the largest male, though they are not as fierce about this ritual as some other species of snake can be. They will become very active during breeding season, though they are not searching for food (as snakes usually are when overly active) but instead on the hunt for possible mates.
Participating in Courtship
The courtship behaviours of corn snakes involve three phases. In the first phase, which is called the tactile chase phase, the male touches the female with his snout and runs his chin along her back. She may try to move away from him at this point and if she does, he will chase her and move to sprawl on top of her. In the tactile alignment phase, the male begins his copulatory attempts. He moves his body and tail around so that his vent (the opening where waste is emptied from the body and also where the reproductive organs are kept) lines up under the female's vent. The last phase of courtship is the intromission phase, which consists of the actual mating behaviour. The male turns one of his hemipenes (male snake reproductive organs) out into the vent of the female. There is little movement at this point, except for the gentle swaying of the snakes' tails. Mating may take up to 20 minutes, and afterward a yellowish fluid will usually be left behind after the corn snakes have seperated.
Corn snakes of both sexes will usually mate repeatedly during breeding season. The females will also eat as often as they can manage because they need to build up their fat stores. After breeding season has been going on for about two months, and if the female has bred frequently and successfully, she will become gravid with eggs. She will stop eating, shed one more time and then lay about 10 to 30 eggs (with 20 being about an average clutch size).
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