This has been probably the longest corn snake project I have ever embarked on. Back in the mid '70s I decided to get some Miami phase corn snakes with silver gray background coloration with the intention of breeding amelanism into them to produce a corn snake that would be completely white with bright red blotches. My logic at the time was that breeding amelanism into these gray ground colored animals will produce white backgrounds and brilliant red blotches. Twenty-five years later, I am almost where I want to be with this project, but not quite. And the results are still not predictable. The orange coloration has been EXTREMELY hard to remove from the ground color. What I didn't realize 24 years ago was that the gray ground color of the Miami phase corn snakes apparently overlays the orange coloration, not replacing it as I had thought.
So what was supposed to be a quick and easy way to get to what I had in mind has been a painstaking and slow process done with incremental steps via selective breeding. One breakthrough I had several years ago is a male amelanistic that came from a completely unrelated blood line provide me with the genetic material needed to help eliminate this orange contamination. I have noted that the majority of Candy Canes that have him as an ancestor and noticeably whiter in color in the background. However he appears to have introduced another variable into the mix. Some will have washed out centers in the dorsal blotches, almost forming a ring of red surrounding a center of coloration almost matching the ground color. This type of appearance has been showing up in several other cultivars and has sometimes been referred to as a 'frosted' look. I am tempted to separate these lines into uniquely named cultivars, but I feel it is too early as far as predictability goes to consider seriously doing that at this time. Refinements, of course, are still in progress, but I'm getting closer every year to getting the ideal pure red and pure white corn snake. One other variable in the mix is the intensity of the red blotches. Sometimes the red can be a more orangish-red coloration and not the fire-engine red I am striving for. At this point, I don't know what the links are in the genetic stock to control this and make it more predictable.
The first time I ever heard the name 'Candy Cane' was in reference to some amelanistic corn snakes being worked with by Kevin Enge. Also, Bill & Kathy Love were also working on a similar project at the time. Around 1986 a bunch of corn snakes from Glen Slemmer came into Hogtown Herps in Gainesville, FL, and Kevin had the pick of the pack. Nothing is really certain about the genetic lineage of this group of animals, but some of the red on white animals were spectacular and Kevin coined the name 'Candy Cane' based on this original look. Although Glen Slemmer was well known for creating the original emoryi crosses with corns, none of the animals were apparently labeled, so there was no way to determine what any of the individual animals actually were. Certainly not ALL of his corn snakes were involved in the hybrid crosses, so some surely must have been pure corn snakes. Some of Glen Slemmers stock also went to Bill & kathy Love as well as Mark Bell around the same time. I believe Kathy Love mentioned infusing emoryi stock into their Candy Cane project in an article in Reptiles Magazine several years ago, but I'm not certain when this took place in relation to the animals they received from Glen Slemmer's stock.
Please bear in mind that this is still a project in progress and not all of the Candy Canes will have the orange completely eliminated. The orange sometimes will sneak in later in life to become exposed on the back of the neck and forefront of the body in some specimens. The real problem is that it is pretty nearly impossible to predict how the babies will turn into as adults. I've seen spectacular pure white babies get a substantial orange wash to the background at maturiry, and then on the other hand seen rather lack luster babies have nearly pure white backgrounds the posterior three fourths of the body. So understandably, I do NOT guarantee how they will turn out, but the averages are increasing every year to get the ones with completely white backgrounds to dominate in each clutch.