9 AMAZING FACTS ABOUT THE HOGNOSE SNAKE
- The hognose snake uses its upturned snout to dig into the loose ground or hummus (hummus is natural compost — not to be confused with hummus). The leicheterodon snakes often also dig up lizard eggs to feast on.
- Hognose snakes are dimorphic, which means that the females are much larger than the males of the same age.
- Rather than constricting or body pinning their prey, hognose snakes rely on their jaws to subdue the prey before consuming it live.
- Females will lay anything between 4 and 23 eggs, which must incubate for 6 – 8 weeks before hatching.
- Hognose hatchlings have an egg tooth when they are born. This helps them break out of the egg.
- In the wild, the hognose snakes prefer to feed on toads and frogs, which they also hunt, many times, by digging them out from under the soil.
- The hognose snake has rear fangs — that is to say, its large teeth are situated at the back of its mouth. This is to ensure that it can pierce and swallow toads, that blow themselves up as a defense strategy, without a problem.
- The Hognose Snake will strike if threatened but will strike with a closed mouth.
- A hognose snake can live up to 18 years when they are kept in captivity.
With their (dare we say cute) upturned snouts, many color variations, and their size, hognose snakes makes a perfect pet snake. This guide will tell you all you need to know about keeping and breeding hognose snakes
Hognose snakes are, in fact, not only one snake species but the name of several colubrid snake species who all have the characteristic of upturned snouts. The hognose snakes include three distantly related genera, called the Leicheterodon, and Lystrophis. The heterodox genus of hognose snakes is especially known for playing dead when they feel threatened.
The natural habitat of these species ranges from the United States and Mexico, with the eastern hognose snake also being found in some of the southern parts of Canada. Others are found in Madagascar and South America. The ones most popularly kept as pets originate from the US, though.
GENUS AND SPECIES OF HOGNOSE SNAKES
The three genera of hognose snakes contain some 14 different species of hognose snake. The species are as follows:
- Dusty hognose snake, Heterodon nasicus gloydi (Edgren, 1952)
- Eastern hognose snake, Heterodon platirhinos (Latreille, 1801)
- Heterodon nasicus
- Mexican hognose snake, Heterodon kennerlyi (Kennicott, 1860)
- Southern hognose snake, Heterodon simus (Linnaeus, 1766)
- Western or Plains hognose snake, Heterodon nasicus nasicus (Baird & Girard, 1852)
- Blonde hognose snake, Leioheterodon modestus (Günther, 1863)
- Malagasy giant hognose snake, Leioheterodon madagascariensis (Duméril & Bibron, 1854)
- Speckled hognose snake, Leioheterodon geayi (Mocquard, 1905)
- Jan’s hognose snake, Lystrophis histricus (Jan, 1863)
- Lystrophis matogrossensis (Scrocchi & Cruz, 1993)
- Ringed hognose snake, Lystrophis semicinctus (Duméril, Bibron & Duméril, 1854)
- South American hognose snake, Lystrophis dorbignyi (Duméril, Bibron & Duméril, 1854)
- Tri-color hognose snake, Lystrophis pulcher (Jan, 1863)
HOGNOSE SNAKES AS PETS
Hognose snakes make wonderful pet snakes. It is mostly the heterodon and leichterodon snakes that are kept as pets. The eastern hognose snake and western hognose snake are by far the most popular of the hognose snake pets. However, there are strict laws in place in the state of Colorado regarding keeping western hognoses as pets.
HOGNOSE SNAKE CARE
Hognoses are some of the easier snakes to take care of as they do not need many specialized types of equipment to ensure their health and safety.
HOGNOSE SNAKE TEMPERAMENT
Hognose snakes are quite docile and will seldom bite even though they may put up a very dramatic display when they feel threatened. Once your snake is used to you and knows your smell though, they will no longer feel that you are a threat.
HOGNOSE SNAKE DIET
Hognose snakes are fed mice in captivity (unlike the frogs and toads that they eat in the wild. The prey, however, must be dead as rodents can do a lot of damage to your snake if they are fed to it alive. There have been reports of snakes having to be put down because of wounds inflicted after they were fed live prey.
Some snakes don’t take well to being fed mice and, in that case, the smell of the mice can be changed to fool the snake into thinking that is an amphibian. There are two main ways of doing this — either defrost the mouse along with a frog leg or dip it in amphibian urine. Some owners have luck dipping the mouse into cod liver oil or defrosting it with a fish.
Braining can also be tried if the above methods do not work. Braining involves making an incision into the head of the prey and exposing the brain to entice the snake.
When hognose snakes first hatch, they are only 5” to 9” long and must be fed pinkies as their first meals. The size of the mice’s size can be adjusted as your snake grows to maturity.
HOGNOSE SNAKE ENVIRONMENT: SUBSTRATE OR BEDDING
You don’t need a very large snake enclosure for a hognose snake. A medium-sized enclosure (30-40 gallons) should be large enough. There should be one square foot of floor room per foot that the snake is long. It can be about a third of the snake’s length in height.
However, you should not start off your newborn or young hognose snake in this size of the enclosure, as they can get stressed by the amount of space and stop feeding. It is best to keep snakes of this age in a faunarium that is the appropriate size.
For the substrate or bedding, you can use aspen shavings (replace all the shavings once a month with new shavings and remove any of the bedding that has urine or feces on it as soon as possible with a cat litter scoop). Eco earth and orchid bark can also be used as a substrate. If you do use orchid bark, be sure to keep an eye on the humidity inside the enclosure.
Beech chips can be used if the other substrates are not available. However, never use cedar, pine or redwood shavings. These are toxic to most reptiles.
HOGNOSE SNAKE ENVIRONMENT: HEAT
Ideally, the temperature inside your hognose snake’s snake enclosure should be room temperature on one end and approximately 30-33°C (82-85°F) as you near the heat source. This will help them to regulate their body temperature. Use a heat mat with a thermostat or a bulb with a dimming stat.
If you use a heat mat, it should not cover more than a third of the base of the snake enclosure. It also has to be regulated by a thermostat to keep it from overheating. I suggest trying the Microclimate Ministat 100 or Habistat Mat Stat for your hognose snake’s enclosure.
HOGNOSE SNAKE ENVIRONMENT: HIDES
You also need to provide your hognose snake with a hide or two in their enclosure. If they don’t have a hide, they will become stressed. The hide should also be just big enough for your snake to curl up into. Don’t buy a large hide thinking that it will give them ‘stretching room’ — it will make them feel unsafe instead of appreciating the extra space. Check out these hides from Amazon.
Because hognose snakes are also inquisitive, it’s a good idea to change up the layout of the enclosure every now and then to keep them from getting bored.
HOGNOSE SNAKE ILLNESSES
Hognose snakes can suffer from most of the same illnesses as other pet snakes. Read here about the SIGNS OF A SICK SNAKE. You, therefore, need to keep an eye out for mites. Mites present as small black dots around your snake’s mouth and eyes. Respiratory infections are a very serious sickness in snakes and should be treated by a vet immediately.
If you think your hognose snake may be sick, check out this article about the most common snake illnesses and symptoms.
HOGNOSE SNAKE PLAYING DEAD
One of these snakes defense tactics is to play dead. Read below all the different things they will do before playing dead.
1. THEY WILL HISS AT YOU AND OPEN THEIR NECKS
The Hognose Snake is known for their hissing that they make when they are threatened. This is their first line of defense. The first thing they will do is expand their ribs in their neck like a Corba. And then they will hiss as loud as they can. They do this so as they will try to chase away a predator.
2. THEY WILL FAKE STRIKE YOU
The snake will hiss at you and then they will strike at you. They will strike but do not bite. They almost try knock you with their head.
3. THEY WILL PLAY DEAD
This interesting defense tactic is done as one of the snakes last lines of defense. They will turn themselves upside down and open their mouse like they are dying. While they pretend to be dead they will also let off a musky smell. They have a gland near their cloaca and they will smear musk from that gland.
The smell is pretty awful and you could easily think the snake is dead.
ARE HOGNOSE SNAKES VENOMOUS?
There is still some debate by herpetologists as to whether to classify hognose snakes as venomous or not. Their poison is certainly lethal to their prey, but, don’t worry, it’s not poisonous to humans. And, while they will often act as if they are going to strike, they rarely bite. The chance that you will, therefore, come into contact with their poison at all is very small.
Even if these snakes do bite, which they won’t. Their fangs are at the back of their mouth which makes it very difficult to deliver the poison. The snakes also does not have venom but more of a poisonous salivia which runs down their teeth to be munched into their rey. The reason why their fangs are at the back of their mouth is so they can bite it into their prey. Unlike other snakes that have venom this snake has a salivia gland called the Duvernoy’s Gland. The toxic salivia is stored in this gland, ready to be chewed into its prey. The salivia will paralyse the frog or mouse and will allow their food to be swallowed easier.
See this video for more information about this:
HOGNOSE SNAKE BREEDING
Hognose snakes should be at least 2-years-old, as well as 16” in length before being used to breed with. Breeding can be divided into the following parts: brumation (cooling your snakes down for winter), mating, laying the eggs, incubation of the eggs, and hatching.
HOGNOSE SNAKE BRUMATION
Brumation ensures that the chances of successful breeding is better and should be done with both your male and female snakes. For brumation, lower the temperature gradually to approximately 14°C/58°F and maintain this temperature for about six to eight weeks. Although the snakes won’t eat during this time (so this is no reason to worry), you must ensure that they always have fresh water available.
HOGNOSE SNAKE MATING SEASON AND MATING
Mating season in the wild for hognose snakes are June to August. These months are, therefore, a good time to introduce your female hognose to the male’s enclosure. As long as you feed them well, they can be left together for a few weeks. However, if they are not properly fed, they may resort to cannibalism. If their mating was successful, the female will become pregnant — which is also referred to as “gravid”.
HOGNOSE SNAKE LAYING THE EGGS
Once pregnant, your female hognose snake will need to be fed more often. This is to ensure that they get enough nutrients to develop their eggs. A nest box must be placed in the snake enclosure when your female is ready to lay her eggs. You will know it is time because it will be obvious that she is looking for a place to lay them.
When she has laid all her eggs (between 4 and 23), they should be removed from the snake enclosure. Feed your snake after she’s laid the eggs and keep on feeding her more often. This will increase the chances of a successful “double clutch”.
Important! If you see that your snake is struggling and that one of the eggs are stuck, get her to the vet immediately, as this can be life-threatening.
HOGNOSE SNAKE INCUBATION OF THE EGGS
The eggs your female hognose have laid must be incubated between 53 and 65 days (i.e. six to eight weeks). The eggs should be kept at a constant temperature of 25-27°C/79-81°F as much as possible. Use vermiculite inside the incubator to keep the humidity levels correct.
HOGNOSE SNAKE HATCHING AND THE HATCHLINGS
After the six to eight have passed, the hatching will break out of their eggs using an egg tooth. Do not force the hatchlings to come out of the eggs, but leave them to consume the yolk for another few days. They will leave the eggshells as soon as they are ready. It is important to house all the hatchlings separately from this stage onward. Keep them in appropriately-sized containers to ensure that they don’t undergo unnecessary stress.
THE FIRST FEED OF THE HATCHLINGS
You should feed your hatchlings a pinky a week after their first shed. If you see that they do not want to eat it, try one of the methods we listed under “diet” to make it more enticing to the little one. “Toad scenting” or braining the pinkies should do the job. The hatchlings should be fed every 5-6 days.
Make sure that your hatchlings eat mice without a problem before you sell them, though.