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A Hillbilly Guide to Snakes: Eastern Hognose snakes

Updated on July 17, 2012
Photograph taken by Patrick Coin
Photograph taken by Patrick Coin

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.

Appearance


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.

This image shows a large portion of the eastern hornose snake's distribution in the United States. It doesn't show the entire area it covers, but shows enough that you can get the idea of how much area they cover.
This image shows a large portion of the eastern hornose snake's distribution in the United States. It doesn't show the entire area it covers, but shows enough that you can get the idea of how much area they cover.

Habitat


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.

What kind of snake am I?
What kind of snake am I?

Question 1

Is the snake pictured above an eastern hognose or a rattlesnake? Answers at the bottom

See results

Food


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.

An eastern hognose snake playing dead.
An eastern hognose snake playing dead.

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.

Photo by Bladerunner8u. What kind of snake am I?
Photo by Bladerunner8u. What kind of snake am I?

Question 2

Is the snake picutred above a eastern hognose or a rattlesnake? Answers at the bottom.

See results
Eastern Hognose Snake
Eastern Hognose Snake

Answers

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.

Comments

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    • Phillbert profile imageAUTHOR

      Phillip Drayer Duncan 

      6 years ago from The Ozarks

      That is absolutely true. That is what I tell everyone I know about trying to kill random venomous snakes encountered out in the wild. I guess it's true of anything though. Car accidents, gun accidents, and saw accidents can all be tallied as momentary stupid mistakes. Glad it didn't mess you up to bad!

    • rcrumple profile image

      Rich 

      6 years ago from Kentucky

      Copperhead bite on calf of leg, no big deal. Swelling and some minor necrosis afterward. Stupid mistake. But the fact remains, 99% of all bites are because of stupid mistakes. Never get overconfident when dealing with venomous. Strike zones can change with snakes of the same species.

    • Phillbert profile imageAUTHOR

      Phillip Drayer Duncan 

      6 years ago from The Ozarks

      Thank you Wesman! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

      Thank you jellygator and thanks for sharing your story!

      Those bites could not have been pleasant rcumple! Where did the copperhead you get you at? How bad was it?

      Thank you Randy! That's an awesome picture!

    • Randy Godwin profile image

      Randy Godwin 

      6 years ago from Southern Georgia

      Very informative hub for those not familiar with these wonderful creatures. My avatar is an example of an eastern hog nose.

      SSSSS

    • jellygator profile image

      jellygator 

      6 years ago from USA

      That was a great link. Thanks for adding it in your comment. (But dang, son, keep away from dem copperheads!)

    • rcrumple profile image

      Rich 

      6 years ago from Kentucky

      No. I've never experienced a bite from a hognose, eastern or western. (Only a naja nivea and a standard Northern Copperhead have tagged me over the last 30 years, besides a hungry ball python that thought my thumb was a mouse, lol) Just a link on the web I found years ago.

    • jellygator profile image

      jellygator 

      6 years ago from USA

      Great hub! I actually like snakes, and was thrilled to discover an Eastern hognose in my yard in Georgia, near the pond. More precisely, my black lab discovered it, and I thought it was a rattlesnake until I saw that nose and the cobra effect. Very, very cool!

      rcrumple, was that a bite you experienced?

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      This is AWESOME good Sir! I am very interested in snakes, but you've shown me one that I did not know anything about....as I've never seen one before.

      VERY INTERESTING! I'd not thought of a snake having such an odd face.

    • Phillbert profile imageAUTHOR

      Phillip Drayer Duncan 

      6 years ago from The Ozarks

      That's a good question Laura. I don't know for sure, but the reason a person reacts to a bee sting is because they are allergic to a specific protein in the toxin from the stinger. So unless the hognose's saliva contains those same specific proteins then I would think the person should be OK. However, it is very rare for a person to be bit by a hognose. In this case the pet hognose mistook the man's hand for food.

    • LauraVerderber profile image

      Power Ball Pythons 

      6 years ago from Mobile, AL

      I liked the link on the hognose bite and what the venom does. Clearly not bad at all for a healthy adult. I wonder how a person allergic to bee stings would react to a hognose bite though?

    • Phillbert profile imageAUTHOR

      Phillip Drayer Duncan 

      6 years ago from The Ozarks

      Thanks pippap! I appreciate the comment!

    • pippap profile image

      pippap 

      6 years ago from Surrey, BC

      While I am not fond of snakes, this article kept my attention. Well done!

    • Phillbert profile imageAUTHOR

      Phillip Drayer Duncan 

      6 years ago from The Ozarks

      Thanks rcrumple I actually read somewhere that feeding them rodents in captivity can cause liver problems and shorten their lives, so it was probably better you went the extra mile to get them frogs. Thanks for sharing the link too that is really cool!

    • Phillbert profile imageAUTHOR

      Phillip Drayer Duncan 

      6 years ago from The Ozarks

      Thank you LauraVerderber! I like that 'cute like little piggy noses'!

    • rcrumple profile image

      Rich 

      6 years ago from Kentucky

      Very in depth article! I picked up two Easterns one summer that had been raised on only frogs and toads. No matter which one of the 500 ways I attempted to get them to eat pinkies, fuzzies or rat pups, they refused. So, I was stuck shipping frogs from Louisiana in the winter for $75 a shipment of 20. Worked well until a new shipment of frogs arrived in February. Fed them on Saturday and by Sunday morning found my favorite hard as a rock. Three hours later, the other one was in the same state. Both had croaked! (Sorry, but as bad as it was I couldn't resist it) True story, though. Before recommending them as pets, I'd suggest one either makes sure they'll eat rodents or ensure they have a ready access to frogs. As far as a bite is concerned, here's a link showing "extreme" results of a bite. http://www.herpnet.net/bite/ No lasting problems for an adult, but one might be wary for a child. Good Hub! Voted Up!

    • LauraVerderber profile image

      Power Ball Pythons 

      6 years ago from Mobile, AL

      Great article. It's good to know that there are other hubbers out there that like snakes. I'm glad you did this article. Many people can't tell the difference between a venomous snake and puff adders, so they end up getting killed. I never found their upturned noses scary. I always thought they looked cute like little piggy noses.

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