Corn snakes rank among the most common pets in the US, but do they have the same status in Australia?
If you’re an Australian resident, or plan to move there, and love corn snakes, the following article is for you.
Let’s jump right in!
Legal Status of Corn Snakes in Australia
Corn snakes (Pantherophis guttatus) are not legal to keep as pets in Australia.
In fact, all species of snakes from overseas are prohibited from being kept in Australia unless they are used for scientific, educational, or conservation purposes and the appropriate permits have been obtained.
Australia has very strict biosecurity laws designed to protect the country’s unique flora and fauna, as well as its human population. Non-native species, including reptiles, can have significant negative impacts on Australia’s natural ecosystems if they are introduced into the wild.
This is especially true for corn snakes, given that they qualify as pest reptiles even in the US in some states.
Therefore, if you reside in Australia and wish to have a snake for a pet, you will need to choose from the many species of native Australian snakes that are legal to keep with the appropriate permits and licenses.
These include species such as the Stimson’s python, children’s python, spotted python, and the central bearded dragon, which isn’t a snake, but close enough.
It is also important to research the specific requirements for keeping these animals as pets, as there may be different regulations in different Australian states and territories. Just because it is legal to have a certain reptile for a pet doesn’t mean you’re off the hook.
You still need to prove that you can house and care for the animal properly in captivity; otherwise, you may be prohibited from getting it in the first place.
Why Corn Snakes are Illegal in Australia
Corn snakes are illegal in Australia due to concerns about the potential ecological impact they could have if they were to escape or be released into the wild. Which believe it or not, many people do for some reason.
Australia has a unique and fragile ecosystem, and many non-native species that have been introduced in the past have had negative impacts on the environment.
These events have even led to the extinction of endemic species that could not adapt to the newcomers in due time.
The reasoning behind it is that corn snakes are known to be excellent escape artists, and if they were to escape from captivity, they could potentially establish feral populations in the wild.
Feral populations of non-native species, corn snakes especially, can have devastating effects on native wildlife, disrupting food webs and outcompeting native species for resources.
This has also been observed in the US, where invasive corn snakes have easily outcompeted endemic species in a rush for food and resources.
Not to mention, corn snakes are native to North America, and as such, they are not adapted to Australia’s climate, habitat, and predator-prey relationships.
To protect Australia’s environment and native wildlife, the country has strict laws and regulations surrounding the importation and ownership of non-native animals, including snakes.
Only a few select organizations and individuals with specific permits are allowed to keep non-native snakes for scientific, educational, or conservation purposes.
This doesn’t stop the illegal trading and owning of corn snakes on Australian land, as you can imagine.
The Risks of Keeping an Illegal Corn Snake
Keeping an illegal corn snake in Australia can have serious legal and ecological consequences.
Here you have the 2 risks and consequences to consider:
- Fines and imprisonment – The Australian legal system is no joke, including when it comes to regulating the import of prohibited animal species. Owning a prohibited species like a corn snake is a criminal offense in Australia and can result in heavy fines or even imprisonment. The laws surrounding the possession of non-native species in Australia are strictly enforced, and individuals caught with prohibited animals face legal consequences, with no exceptions.
- Affecting native animal populations – If a corn snake were to escape or be released into the wild, it could cause significant harm to the Australian environment. Non-native species can cause ecological damage by out-competing native animal species for resources, spreading diseases, and disrupting feeding hierarchies, which can sometimes destroy entire populations. The release of a single corn snake could potentially lead to the establishment of a feral population, which could have significant negative impacts on Australia’s biodiversity. If you’re caught releasing one into the wild, see point 1.
Furthermore, keeping an illegal corn snake also sends a message that it is acceptable to break laws designed to protect Australia’s environment and native wildlife.
It is important for individuals to be responsible and follow the laws surrounding the ownership and possession of animals to help ensure the conservation of Australia’s unique ecosystems.
Can You Legally Keep a Corn Snake in Australia?
Technically, no, not for private use. You can only import and keep them on Australian land for educational, scientific, or conservation purposes, but you require special permits for that.
If you don’t live up to any of these requirements, stay away from this species.
Alternatives to Corn Snakes for Australian Snake Enthusiasts
If you’re on Australian land and love snakes, but corn snakes are now out of the picture, what other options do you have left?
Well, you can go for one of the several local snake species.
Here are the 3 most popular to consider:
- Children’s Python (Antaresia childreni) – This is a small and docile python species native to northern and western Australia. They are known for their friendly, docile, and inquisitive personalities, which makes them popular pets among local reptile lovers. They have a maximum length of about 3-5 feet and are generally easy to care for. Their attractive coloration includes a tan or brown background with irregular dark markings that resemble teardrops.
- Spotted Python (Antaresia maculosa) – Here, you have another small python species native to northern and eastern Australia. They are also known for their calm and docile temperament and are a popular choice for beginner snake owners. They have a distinctive appearance, with a light tan or gray background and numerous small, irregular spots that can be black, brown, or reddish-brown. Spotted pythons are relatively easy to care for, and they can make great reptile pets for both experienced and novice snake enthusiasts.
- Stimson’s Python (Antaresia stimsoni) – This small python species is native to northern Australia. They are highly sought after as pets due to their attractive coloration, which includes dark brown or black patches on a reddish-brown or pinkish background. Stimson’s pythons have a calm and friendly temperament, making them a great choice for novice snake owners. They are relatively easy to maintain, but like all pet snakes, they require specific housing, feeding, and environmental conditions to stay healthy and thrive in captivity.
You can also opt for a variety of other snakes and even lizards, so long as you can house them in ideal conditions.
And most importantly, you’re aware of the regulations surrounding the species because you may require special permits for some of them.
Corn snakes are not popular in Australia, as they are considered destructive pests. I don’t recommend smuggling one on the continent or engaging in shady trades to acquire a specimen.
Don’t be disappointed, Australia is known as the land of reptiles; you’re unlikely to remain out of options anytime soon.