Okeetee Corn Snake Elaphe guttata guttata


Below: Boldly patterned adult female Okeetee corn snake

Okeetee Corn Snake Elaphe guttata guttata

Corn snakes originating from the vicinity of the Okeetee Hunt Club in Jasper County, South Carolina are famous for their bright coloration and bold patterns. In fact, many enthusiasts consider the nicest examples to be the ideal corn snakes. After a glance at the examples from our breeding colony, it would be hard to argue otherwise.

Below: Close view of the thick black borders near the tail on our main breeder male Okeetee.

 Okeetee Corn Snake Elaphe guttata guttata

Our stock originates from the famous Kathy Love and Lee Abbott bloodlines, which descend from pure Jasper County locality stock. Our field experience in the area has led us to the realization that not every wild corn snake in that area would be a "Perfect 10" in the eyes of most captive hobbyists. We have added select wild caught animals over the years in attempt to add new blood while maintaining the classic look associated with Okeetee corn snakes.

Below: Subadult Okeetee corn snake with high contrast red and orange coloration and thick black borders to the blotches

Okeetee Corn Snake Elaphe guttata guttata

Our adults have fire engine red blotches thickly bordered in jet black. Some of the blotches toward the tail may actually be solid black. The blotches stand out in sharp contrast to the clean, bright orange background. The bellies have the classic dark checkerboard pattern. In addition to being some of the beautiful corn snakes, Okeetee corn snakes are also known for their husky build. Adults often reach five feet in length. Six footers are not unheard of. The hatchlings are more robust than typical corn snakes and nearly always take pinky mice on the first offering, which is a big plus.

Below: This juvenile Okeetee corn snake is starting to show its adult coloration.

 Okeetee Corn Snake Elaphe guttata guttata



In the Wild

In the 1957 book Snakes and Snake Hunting, Staten Island Zoo curator Carl Kauffeld described his adventures on the Okeetee Hunt Club in Jasper County, South Carolina.  He walked forests of Okeetee in the spring time and looked for burned out stumps and the roots of hurricane felled trees (which he called simply "hurricanes") in search of snakes. Snakes he did find. He recounted encounters with eastern diamondback rattlesnakes, canebrake rattlesnakes, eastern king snakes, and others. In spite of the impressive list of sought after snakes species, it is his description of the beautifully colored corn snakes of this region that may have inspired more snake enthusiasts than any other species.

Below: Nicely maintained flatwoods on the Okeetee Hunt Club

Pine Flatwoods Jasper County, South Carolina Okeetee Club

Kauffeld's accounts led many to follow in his footsteps, snake hunting on what became known as the "hallowed grounds" of Okeetee. Snake hunters descended on the area each spring. In addition to the hunt club land itself, they found fertile hunting grounds around dilapidated buildings. Tin sheets from the roofs of old farm houses and barns were scattered about on the edges of fields. It truly was a snake hunter's paradise. But, as the old saying goes, all good things must come to an end. The local people (gritty home spun southerners) grew tired of out-of-towners (many of which qualified as "yankees" as their locality origins lay north of the Mason-Dixon line) tromping all over the countryside of Jasper County. "No Trespassing" signs began to appear and eventually the "hallowed grounds" of Okeetee were also closed off to snake hunters.

Okeetee Corn Snake Elaphe guttata guttata No Trespassing

Several years ago, I made my first trip to Jasper County with my friends Bill Love and Anthony Flanagan. Having heard that the habitat of the Okeetee Hunt Club itself had changed, and not wishing to attract unwanted negative attention by venturing onto the land itself, I was more concerned with getting a general feel for the area and learning the best techniques for finding snakes there in the modern age. We crisscrossed the area on dirt and paved roads and found parcels of hunt club land scattered across the county. Many would be surprised to learn that the Okeetee Club is not just one tract of land in one location. Major roads divide sections of the club. On the way, we found tin sheets here and there, though many of them were shaded by overgrown oaks and not in the best locations for snakes. On our first day we only managed to locate a few of the less sought after species like black racers and "greenish" rat snakes (my first one being one of the ugliest snakes I have ever seen).

Below: Daniel Parker with large wild Okeetee corn snake (Photo by Bill Love)

Daniel Parker Okeetee corn snake Elaphe guttata guttata

On the second day, we finally located a few ideal looking tin sites, with well weathered sheets of tin dotting grassy fields. No sooner had Anthony started to flip a beautiful stack of corrugated metal than he was holding up three big snakes, a black racer and two of the most impressive wild corn snakes that I had ever seen. They made our typical Florida corn snake look puny by comparison. We found several more tin sites, each one as mouth watering as the next (at least to a group of snake nerds). We managed to find several beautiful canebrakes and more corn snakes. Satisfied with our initial scouting trip to the area, we headed on to other regions of the old south, confident that we could return to Jasper County and easily repeat or exceed our success on a future trip. Several return trips to the area were disappointing. One after another, the tin spots seemed to have disappeared. This was part of an epidemic of scrap metal collection that eliminated hundreds of snake hunting spots across the south. In recent years, we have found it easier just to make trips in times of the year when the snakes are out on the move. Florida style road cruising has served us very well.

Below: Daniel Parker with corn snake found under tin at a perfect looking abandoned shack. This building has since been bulldozed and the tin removed.  (Photo by Bill Love)

Daniel Parker Okeetee corn snake Elaphe guttata guttata



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