Top 10 Eastern Hognose Snake Facts – A Very Dramatic Snake

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Quick Facts

Scientific Name: Heterodon platirhinos

Common Names: Eastern Hognose Snake, Puff Adder, Spreading adder, Hissing Adder

Geographic Range: Eastern Canada and United States

Life Span: 12 Years in the Wild, 15 – 18 Years in Captivity

 Conservation Status: Least Concern

Top 10 List

1. Eastern Hognose Snakes Have Upturned Noses, Which Is Where Their Name Comes From

The Eastern Hognoses most defining feature is definitely their upturned noses, which is used for digging in sandy soils. It also contributes to their name “Hognose”, as their upturned nose is quite hog-like in appearance.

The average adult hognose is on average 28 inches long, with females tending to be larger than males. The longest recorded length of one of these snakes was 46 inches long. Their colour and pattern depend on their locality, with many combinations found in the wild. They can range from patternless, blotched, or checkered with colour combinations of red, green, orange, brown, gray and black. Their belly is usually a solid grey, yellow, or cream colour (however pale oranges and reds are sometimes seen), with the underside of the tail being lighter than the rest of the belly.

2. These Snakes Are Found In Both Canada And The United States

Eastern Hognose Exploring The Open Dirt
Eastern Hognose Exploring The Open Dirt

Eastern Hognose Snakes are found from eastern-central Minnesota, and Wisconsin to southern Ontario, Canada and extreme southern New Hampshire, south to southern Florida and west to eastern Texas and western Kansas.

These hognoses are generally found in areas with lots of sandy, well-drained soils that they are able to burrow in. Because of their love for open sandy areas, they are commonly found in beaches. Other areas that they inhabit can include: fields, forests, old dunes, farmland, and shrublands.

3. Eastern Hognoses Only Feed On Amphibians

The main diet of the Eastern Hognose is limited to amphibians such as toads, frogs, and salamanders, with toads being a particular favourite. While toad skin does have toxins, eastern hognoses are immune to these toxins, thought to be possible because of enlarged adrenal glands that secrete large amounts of hormones to counteract the toads toxin. Their large rear fangs are used to “pop” the toads, allowing them to swallow their prey whole. While they are known to mostly go for amphibians, they have been seen to occasionally consume reptiles, birds, and invertebrates.

4. Eastern Hognose Eggs And Hatchlings Are On Their Own From The 

Eastern Hognose In A Pile Of Leaves
Eastern Hognose In A Pile Of Leaves

Male and females hognoses mate every year in April and May, after which the female will lay 7 – 37 eggs in June or July, in burrows that she dug herself in the sandy ground. Occasionally she may also lay the eggs in rotting logs or under rocks and leaves. 60 days later, sometime from late July to September, the eggs will hatch. They hatch at around 6.5 – 8.3 inches, and from the moment they were laid as eggs are on their own. The parents don’t stick around to protect the eggs or babies. These hatchling will be fully mature 2 – 5 years later, depending on the climate.

5. They Do Produce Venom, However It Is Specific To The Amphibians They 

Eastern Hognoses are rear fanged snakes, and are often considered non-venomous as they are not harmful to humans. However, they do produce venom, which is amphibian specific, and only harmful to their food source. Their venom is only to dangerous to humans who happen to be allergic to it, however it only causes swelling near the bite, and no human deaths have ever been recorded.

Heterodon, part of their scientific name, can be translated to “different tooth” which refers to their enlarged rear fangs.

6. Hognose Snakes Have A Unique, Very Dramatic Defense Mechanism

The Eastern Hognose has two unique defense mechanisms. When first threatened they will flatten their neck, with their head raised (not unlike a cobra does). They will his and “strike” with their mouths closed, kind of like a fast headbutt.

If this display doesn’t work they move on to their next defense which is to play dead, very dramatically. The hognose will roll onto its back, and dramatically writhe around. To really sell the performance, they will let their tongue hang out of their mouth, and even emit a foul smelling odour. If flipped back on to their stomach, they will flip themselves back onto their back, and continue playing dead.

7. Eastern Hognose Snakes Will Hibernate During The Chilly Winters

Juvenile Eastern Hognose On a Log
Juvenile Eastern Hognose On A Log

Eastern Hognoses are diurnal snakes, meaning they are most active during the day. They will spend their days alone, foraging in the soil using their upturned noses, hoping to find some prey, as well as basking out in the open. They burrow in the loose soil overnight, to sleep in a safe location. During the cold winters these snakes hibernate, either digging their own burrow to sleep in, or taking over an abandoned fox or skunk den.

8. Humans Contribute To The Largest Threats To Eastern Hognoses

Eastern Hognose Snake
Eastern Hognose Snake

Large birds of prey, and sometimes other snakes will sometimes attempt to prey upon the Eastern Hognose, however their various defensive displays often deter these animals from preying upon them.

The biggest threat to their populations are humans. Their soil preference for their habitats is perfect for farms, which means their land is often taken over. Due to their cobra like displays when threatened, they are often killed by people who don’t know better and think that they are dangerous snakes. Since they enjoy living on beaches where people gather, this puts them even more in harm’s way. They have also been known to have high mortality rates on various roads.

9. There Is Increasing Concern For The Stability Of The Eastern Hognose Population

eastern Hognose Snake
Eastern Hognose Snake

The Eastern Hognose was listed as least concern on the IUCN list in 2007. However, there has been increased concern for their population, especially in the Northeastern range of their habitat. The Ontario Endangered Species Act and Canadian Federal Species At Risk Act both list these snakes as threatened. Since they are on the Species At Risk Act, harassment, killing, or collection of these animals (even for the pet trade) is considered illegal.

10. Despite Their Unique Noses And Behaviour They Are Mistaken For 
Other Snakes Quite A Bit

There are various species of hognose snakes, so the Eastern Hognose can easily be mistaken for other hognoses such as Western Hognoses (common in the pet trade), southern hognoses, and plains hognoses. Despite their unique appearance, they are occasionally mistaken for various water snakes, as well as rattlesnakes due to their defensive posture.

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