Hello, Frank Indiviglio here. It’s hard for snake enthusiasts not to be taken in by the Eastern hognose snake, Heterodon platyrhinos. It puts on an incredible defensive display, it’s stout, viper-like body is variably patterned in many hues and its natural history is quite unique. However, a preferred diet of toads precludes it from becoming well-established in captivity. The Western hognose snake (H. nasicus), however, shares many of its eastern cousin’s outstanding qualities, yet has a wide appetite that is easily satisfied in captivity.
Stoutly built with strongly keeled scales and an upturned snout; tan, brownish-yellow or grayish-yellow in color, with dark blotches; reaches 16-36 inches in length.
Central and western North America, from southern Canada through Arizona and Illinois to northern Mexico (San Luis Potosi).
Prairies, farms, sparsely wooded fields and semi-deserts, usually in areas of sandy soil suitable for burrowing. Western hog nose snakes spend much time below ground.
Mating occurs from March to May, with 9-25 eggs being laid in June –August. The young, 6-7 inches in length, hatch after an incubation period of 45-54 days.
In the wild, Western hog nose snakes take young ground nesting birds, mice, shrews, toads, lizards, snakes and reptile eggs. In one study, they were found to be a major predator on Pacific pond turtle nests.
Those I’ve kept have done very well on small mice and quail eggs.
Other Interesting Facts
This snake’s upturned snout (modified rostral scale) assists in digging for fossorial prey such as toads and the buried eggs of turtles and lizards. Specially modified teeth allow the hognose snake to puncture toads and defeat their defense mechanism of inflating themselves with air.
The western hognose puts on a less elaborate display when threatened than does its eastern relative. It will, however, spread the head in hood-like fashion and strike, and will sometimes play dead when this bluff fails. Animals feigning death roll onto their backs with the tongue lolling out, and will flip onto their backs if righted during the process!
Eastern Hog Nose Snake Conservation
I have been involved in a re-introduction program for the eastern hognose snake at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in NYC. In this area, it inhabits open beaches and sand dunes…please see the accompanying photo. I’ll write about this interesting program in the future.
Read more about Western hog nose snake care and natural history.
Please write in with your questions and comments.
Thanks, until next time,
Western Hognose Snake image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Dawson