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A Hillbilly Guide to Snakes: Eastern Hognose snakes
Heterodon platirhinos... Ewwww!!! It's scary looking!!!
Despite this snake's intimidating nose, this critter is a harmless common snake in the United states. In case you didn't figure it out for yourself, it gets it's name from the large upturned snout. It's also occasionally referred to as a deaf adder or spreading adder.
Eastern Hognose snakes come in all vast variety of colors including black, brown, tan, red, yellow, etc,. There colors patterns can be similir to that of a rattlesnake or they can be simply black. The only truly distinguishing feature they have is their upturned snout and flattened cobra look they can pull off.
The eastern hognose don't get very long but they do tend to be bulky. The adults are usually between 20 and 30 inches with a record size of 45 inches. The females tend to get larger than the males.
So what's the deal with the snout?
Hognose snakes use that impressive nose for digging and burrowing particularly when looking for toads which is like a steak dinner for a Hognose. They also will use the nose to root around through loose dirt or sand.
Eastern hognose snakes span a large portion of the United States from the bottom of Florida all the way west to Texas. They even make it far enough north to be found in Canada, though they are rare in Canada and considered a protected species there.
Like most snakes they prefer woodland or farmland which provides adequate places to hide. The do also prefer sandy areas where they are able to dig easily for toads.
Is the snake pictured above an eastern hognose or a rattlesnake? Answers at the bottom
As mentioned eastern hognose snakes really like toads, but won't hesitate to eat other small creatures as well such other reptiles, amphibians, rodents, and insects.
Interactions with humans
So how does a snake with a terrifying looking nose react to humans? First it will act tough and pretend it wants to bite. The most interesting part of this display is that the Hognose can flatten it's neck and looks a little similar to a cobra. As a child I got to witness this display out in the wild once and it completely blew my mind. They will also make fake strikes, but virtually never actually try to bite.
If a person continues messing with the poor critter the next phase in it's defense strategy is to roll over and pretend that it is dead. Seriously... and it's good too. These snakes could win an Academy Award. They will literally roll over on their back with their tummy to the sky and tongue hanging out of their mouth like it's all over. They will also release a strong musk and possibly fecal matter to add to the display. It's actually quite humorous and I highly recommend looking it up on Youtube. The snake will lay there with one eye on the would be predator, and if the predator looks away or stops bothering them they will slowly start to roll back to life. However if the person/predator moves toward them again they will roll back over and go right back to playing dead in impressive psyche out fashion. They will almost always play dead and will rarely (If ever) strike a human being.
If someone were to get bit by a Hognose they would most likely experience a little swelling, but nothing serious. These snakes possess rear fangs that they use for subduing their prey. Some people say that they contain a mild venom, while others say that it isn't even technically a venom but that their saliva is slightly toxic to further help in subduing prey. Either way it's considered pretty much harmless to humans. In recent years Hognose snakes have started to become popular as pets because they are docile and fairly easy to care for in captivity.
Is the snake picutred above a eastern hognose or a rattlesnake? Answers at the bottom.
Question 1: Rattlesnake... Notice the large triangular shaped head due to the large venom glands the snake possess. The hognose simply has an upturned nose, but not the large venom glands. Also if you look very closely you can see the rattles on the tail.
Question 2: Hognose snake... Notice the round eyes. Vipers (Such as rattlesnakes) have slit cat like eyes, while most nonvenomous snakes have round eyes.