Species group: Hognose Snakes
Other common names: Western Hog-nosed Snake; Prairie Hog-nosed Snake; Texas Rooter; Texas Hog-nosed Snake; Plains Hog-nosed Snake; Spoonbill Snake; Spreadhead Snake; Spreading Adder; Sand Viper
Scientific name: Heterodon nasicus
The Western Hognose Snake is well known for its dramatic threat display and its resemblance, to the untrained eye, to what may be termed a “generic venomous snake”. It is, however, quite harmless and a fine choice for both novice and experienced snake owners. The huge range extends from southern Canada through Montana, North Dakota and western Minnesota to central Mexico and Baja California, Mexico. Largely fossorial, it is found in sandy grasslands, meadows, farm edges and other habitats with loose or unpacked soil.
Appearance / health:
The stoutly-built Western Hognose Snake averages 15-32 inches in length. The dorsal region may be colored reddish or olive gray or various shades of tan and brown, and is marked with dark blotches and spots. A wide variety of color morphs have been established by breeders. As an adaptation to unearthing pray and sheltering below ground, the upturned snout serves as an effective “spade”.
This is a hardy species, with captive longevity sometimes exceeding 20 years. “Blister disease” and other skin infections can take hold if your pet is kept in a damp terrarium. Animals kept on sand should be moved to a bare-bottomed enclosure during feeding to avoid substrate ingestion and digestive tract impactions.
Behavior / temperament:
Western Hognose Snakes are relatively calm in disposition, and tolerate gentle handling. However, they may at first exhibit the threat displays for which they are so well-known - hissing, closed-mouth (usually!) strikes, a spreading of the head and neck and, finally, death-feigning. While fascinating to observe, this behavior should not be elicited for its “amusement” value, as it indicates a high degree of stress.
A single adult may be housed in a 20-30 gallon aquarium. Western Hognose Snakes prefer aspen or a similar substrate that allows for burrowing. Course sand may also be employed, but snakes kept in this manner should be removed at feeding time to avoid the risk of intestinal impaction due to ingested sand. The tank’s screen lid should be secured by cage clips. As Hognose Snakes rarely climb and often stay beneath the substrate, a sub-tank heat pad can be used to create a basking site. An incandescent bulb may be employed to warm the air further if necessary. Ambient temperature: 75-80 F. Basking temperature: 90 F.
Unlike their toad-specialist eastern cousins, wild Western Hognose Snakes consume many prey species, including rodents, shrews, lizards, salamanders and other amphibians, the eggs of various reptiles and ground-nesting birds, and even carrion. Pets do fine on a diet comprised solely of mice. Hatchlings often accept pink mice; picky-eaters can be coaxed with a lizard-scented or, in some cases, tuna oil-scented, pinky.
A cooling-off period of 2-3 months at 55-60 F and with a daylight cycle of 8 hours will often stimulate reproduction. Gravid females will deposit their 6-25 eggs in a container (set into the substrate if possible) of damp moss and sand. The eggs may be incubated in moist vermiculite, and hatch after 50-60 days at 80-85 F.
Written by Frank Indiviglio
great appetite, hardy snake, docile nature, great first snake, beautiful snake
specially designed nose, primitive venom delivery, extremely small size, little snakes, rear teeth
The first question that was always asked about my pet Hognose was, "Why is it called a Hognose"? For a good amount of time, I had no idea, but alas, the internet can solve all questions! I guess you could look it up if you are interested, but I may as well give you the answer since you are here. It is due to their facial shape (duh!) that has evolved for digging and turning up soil to find prey. Pretty cool! My family chose to purchase a Hognose due to their behaviour. My mom is not a fan of snakes, and the only reason we convinced her to get one was because the Hognose lacked aggression and was fairly calm. If you are in a similar pickle with your mom, cite these reasons! They may work. The Hognose is venomous, but only to its small prey. If it bit you or me, which I never encountered in multiple years owning one, it would be painful, but would cause no toxicity to us. There venom is not nearly concentrated enough to ever elicit an effect on us, so no worries in that category! Our Hognose got to be just over a foot long, which is fairly common, and we kept him in a 3x1.5x1.5 habitat. That seemed to be plenty big for him and we never experienced any issues in that regard. There diet consisted primarily of dead mice; babies when the snake was smaller and adults as he grew larger. I have heard that live mice can bite the snake, which is ironic in a sense, and is not recommended due to the potential damage a bite could cause. We stuck with dead mice just to be safe. The most enjoyable part of owning a Hognose was his display of theatrics when stressed. We didn't handle him often, but he never failed to put on a show when we did. I am sure you have seen the videos or heard the description if you are in the market for one, but I have to tell you, it is completely true! Him puffing up, letting out air and acting like the big man on campus never failed to entertain us. He would roll-over and play dead at times, which was hilarious, but not nearly as common. Once this show was over, if we still wanted to pick him up, we could and the Hognose would act as thought nothing happened. Such a showman!
I highly recommend this snake if you are on the fence with getting a scaly creature. They are entertaining, easy to care for and will pose no harm to you. Just remember that they do require attention, so don't go thinking it is a complete walk in the park!.
From hglad577 Nov 11 2013 11:08AM
A lot of character for a little snake
I own three hognose snakes; two of these snakes are female and one is male. To new owners, hognose snakes may appear incredibly aggressive because they go on the defense a lot. Don't be fooled, the snake is generally bluffing. Western hognose will hiss, flatten themselves, and sometimes even play dead. Don't bother them when they do this though, just in case your snake really is stressed.
Hognose are pretty easy to handle and will rarely, if ever, bite you. It's usually due to them being eager to feed. These snakes love to eat. If they do bite you, some mild swelling may occur at the site, but their venom is pretty inefficient and won't be much of an issue.
They don't get very big. Females typically grow up to about three feet and males come in slightly smaller and max out at two.
Tanks are easy to set up, which require a bit of substrate deep enough to burrow, a couple hides, and a water source.
This species is great for people looking for an active, good-looking snake that's easy to handle. I love my hognose..
From aiyanabecker Mar 20 2015 6:29PM