The hognose snake is a harmless native North American snake that has been known to play dead when threatened. They are fairly small, typically 8-24 inches in length, and have the ability to flatten their necks and bodies to appear more like an earthworm. They can also puff up their head to look more like the head of a venomous cottonmouth.

There are several different species of hognose snakes, which are native to parts of North and Central America. These snakes are known for their distinctive upturned snouts, which they use to burrow in soil and leaf litter in search of food. Some of the most common species of hognose snakes include:

  • Western hognose snake (Heterodon nasicus): This species is native to the western United States and parts of Canada, and it is known for its distinctive upturned snout and flattened head. Western hognose snakes typically grow to be around 2-3 feet in length, although some individuals may reach lengths of up to 4 feet.
  • Eastern hognose snake (Heterodon platirhinos): This species is native to the eastern United States and parts of Canada, and it is similar in appearance to the western hognose snake. Eastern hognose snakes are typically smaller than western hognose snakes, with an average length of around 2-3 feet.
  • Southern hognose snake (Heterodon simus): This species is native to parts of Central and South America, and it is known for its distinctive pattern of dark blotches on a light-colored background. Southern hognose snakes are typically smaller than the other two species, with an average length of around 1-2 feet.
  • Spotted or Mexican hognose snake (Heterodon kennerlyi): This species is native to parts of Mexico and Central America, and it is known for its distinctive pattern of dark spots on a light-colored background. Spotted hognose snakes are typically smaller than the other species, with an average length of around 1-2 feet.

Distinctive Features of Hognose Snake

Scientific nameHeterodon spp.
Lifespan10-20 years
ColorVaries by species; may be solid, patterned, or mottled
Size1-4 feet in length
WeightVaries by size
Unique traitUpturned snout used for burrowing
Famous for"Playing dead" behavior when threatened
TemperamentGenerally docile and non-aggressive
AdaptabilityGenerally adaptable to different environments
With kidsGenerally non-aggressive and safe to handle with supervision
BehaviorGenerally docile and non-aggressive, but may hiss or "play dead" when threatened
SocialGenerally solitary animals, but may tolerate the presence of other hognose snakes

Hognose snake is solitary; they rummage and laze in the sunlight early and late in the day. At night they burrow in the loose soil. The western hognose is comparatively tiny and stout-bodied. Between the subspecies, their color and pattern are very variable. The colors are Yellow, Gray, Brown, Olive, Orange, Reddish-brown, Dark brown, Black & Dark Gray.

Hognose Snake Closeup Shot

There are random blotches on the back and smaller blotches on the sides. Some of the snakes are without blotches. The belly color is yellow or light gray or pink. The underside of the tail is lighter compared to the remaining body. Dark lines are drawn from the upper jaw to the eyes. There are 23-25 downwards pointing scales in rows at the mid-body. Pupils are round.

The males are significantly smaller compared to females. They seldom surpass a total length of 15-20 inches. Copulation happens in early February and March. The males generally follow the females for many days before copulation. The oviparous species where the female lays 4-23 elongated 1.25 inches, whitish refined-shelled leathery eggs by June-August. Eggs are amassed in moist sandy, hollow holes or under debris. The eggs are hatched in 60 days. The hatchling is 5-9 inches in length. It takes two years for it to reach sexual maturity.

The life expectancy is up to 20 years. Birds of prey and other snakes eat hognose. Several predators are fooled by the self-defense technique of playing dead. These snakes are also called puff adders. When faced with a threatening situation they puff up the skin of their neck and raise their head off the ground. They even hiss and lunge toward the attacker. If these tactics fail they turn over and play dead.

How to Take Care of Pet Hognose Snake?

The hognose snake is harmless and docile. It's also not an aggressive animal, which means that it won't cause any harm if you aren't an aggressor too. Hognose snakes are easy to handle and for this reason, they are the perfect choice for a pet. When kept as a pet, one should know what to feed and how to set up their perfect habitat to make them live longer.

What to Feed Pet Hognose Snake?

In the wild, the adult and young snake eats mostly amphibians like big and small frogs, toads as well as small lizards. Sometimes they eat rodents. They also eat invertebrates, reptiles, small snakes, and insects.

This snake is problematic to feed in captivity as it will likely deny food. Consistent temperature of the enclosure and feeding time is the ready answer. Warmth keeps the snake active and food gets digested. When hungry the snake accesses the feeder with an open mouth.

Hognose Snake in a Palm

In captivity, the snake will accept gut-loaded crickets dredged in calcium powder. As they become big they eat pinkies, fuzzies, and adult mice. The young ones require food a few times a week. Adults' diet suffices one prey item a week. When shedding happens to lessen feeds to avoid regurgitation.

How to Setup Habitat for Pet Hognose Snake?

The snake is not big even at maximum growth. Purchase a tank that permits them to elongate. For a single snake, a 20-gallon tank will suffice. Prearrange floor space rather than height. Mostly these snakes do not climb. Cover the top with a lid for the safety of the creature. The water dish should be big enough to accommodate the snake. A hide box will make it feel secure.

  • Temperature- The basking region should be about 85-90 degrees F. The cool region should not go below 70 degrees F. To get this set up take a trial of different wattages of heat bulbs varying their height to get the set goal. Measure the temperature where the snake rests and not of the top layer.
  • Brightness- To achieve day-night light you can use full-spectrum UVB lights for a 12-hour cycle. The snakes get Vitamin D from their diet. The light will help in the production of vitamin D.
  • Humidity- The humidity requirement of the snake rests at 30%-60%. The need is higher when they shed. The water dish can be a source of humidity and it can be supplemented by a light mist. Keep a check through the reptile hygrometer.
  • Substrate- Have the foundation with some inches of sand mix and reptile-safe soil. The snake will burrow and hide.

What are the Health Concerns of Pet Hognose Snake?

For owners, it is a relief to know that hognose is a sturdy breed and does not fall sick very often. Yet, be alert for some possible sicknesses. Vet specializing in reptiles can help.

  • Respiratory infection- Wheezing, drooling, and overall lethargy. Lack of proper humidity leads to this problem.
  • Mouth rot or infectious stomatitis- Symptoms are saliva bubbles and redness around the mouth. It is a painful condition. In case timely treatment is not given the likelihood of teeth falling is high.
  • Fungal infection- Complications in shedding and discoloration of the skin.

What it's Like to Keep Hognose Snake as a Pet?

It is not hard to keep a hognose snake as a pet, but there are some things you should know about them and have before you buy one.

Purchase the snake from a trustworthy breeder or rescue organization. This way you will know about the health history of the snake. You have a choice whether to purchase an adult or a hatchling. A captive-bred can be handled right from the beginning. The sign of a healthy snake is its visible ribs and noticeable bends when it stretches out. Before purchase, inspect for mites and ticks.

You should not handle your new pet for two weeks from the time it gets home. The pet makes the new place its home and calmly accepts the surroundings. It will then begin eating with ease. It's the time when you can handle the pet. These snakes are good for beginners because they are easy to handle. However, the correct method should be followed.

Pick the pet with odorless hands. Let the snake feel human hands and not hands that smell like a toad, mouse, etc as the smell may incite the snake to bite. 

There are bright chances that your pet lies buried. Begin your search with a stick until you find it. Make use of a tool to lift it. This way you will not be bitten by the snake who is caught unaware. For beginners use of gloves is a good thing.

Handle the snake from the sides if done from above the snake will become fearful. As the snake is drawn out of the enclosure hold as much of its body in your hand as possible. Keep away from head and tail. Do not in any way stress the snake.

To begin with handle the snake for just 5 minutes. In the time-lapse calm the snake in your hand. With each passing day increase the time limit. The maximum time should not be over one hour.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Pet Hognose Snake

Some of the generally asked questions related to pet hognose snakes are answered below:

Is Hognose Snake a Good Pet?

Hognose snakes are fearful and choose to hide from predators in the wild. In captivity, they never turn hostile or aggressive. They are easy to care for once housing and feeding get into a routine. They are great pets for young and new owners. The size is convenient. They need an enclosure for life once they are adults.

How Poisonous is a Hognose Snake?

Hognose snake is not risky for humans. In medical science, no importance is attached to the venom of this species. No death or allergic reaction has been recorded. Typically these snakes rarely bite. Experts feel they are not on the same level in poison as cobras or rattlesnakes.

What Happens if a Hognose Snake Bites You?

The hognose snake is a placid reptile that only bites when provoked. If it does bite you, don't fret as it rarely causes any harm or pain because they have weak venom and teeth.