FURNITURE shop boss Steve Potter kept calm when he found a four-foot snake in the back of his hired van - now you can too with this handy guide.

1. The name "corn snake" is a holdover from the days when farmers in the US deep south stored harvested ears of corn in a wood frame or log building called a crib. 

2. Their docile nature, reluctance to bite, moderate adult size (3.9 to 6 feet), attractive pattern, and comparatively simple care make them popular pet snakes. Captive corn snakes also tolerate being handled by their owners.

3. In the wild, they usually live about six to eight years, but in captivity can live to be up to 23 years old.

4. Corn snakes lack venom and help control populations of wild rodent pests that damage crops and spread disease.

5. Wild corn snakes prefer habitats such as overgrown fields, forest openings, trees and abandoned or seldom-used buildings and farms.

6. Typically, these snakes remain on the ground until the age of four months old but can climb trees, cliffs and other elevated surfaces.

7. Corn snakes are carnivorous animals, and while in the wild, will eat every few days. Most corn snakes will seek and eat small rodents.

8. In colder regions, snakes hibernate during winter. However, in the more temperate climate along the coast they shelter in rock crevices and logs during cold weather, and come out on warm days to soak up the heat of the sun.