Eastern Hognose Snake
Heterodon platirhinos

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photos by Jeff Humphries
Species DescriptionThe hognose snake is a stout snake that can attain a length of about 45 inches (114 cm).  Their color is highly variable, but there are usually dark brown or black squarish blotches on a background of yellow, orange, reddish, or tan.  Some snakes are plain black or gray, however.  The rostral plate (on the tip of the nose) is pointed and upturned.  This snake's belly is mottled with gray or greenish on yellow.  The underside of the tail is lighter than the rest of the underside of the body and plain in color.  This snake hardly ever bites, so don't be afraid to pick one up to check out these characteristics!

HabitatMost hognose snakes are found along rivers, in the dry, sandy floodplain area.  They are also found in cultivated or abandoned fields and along woodland borders.  They use their upturned snout to burrow into sandy soil. 

Breeding ActivityMating takes place in April and May and possibly in the fall.  They deposit up to 60 (usually 20) eggs in sandy soil in June or July.  The young hatch in August or September. 

RangeThis snake is widespread throughout eastern North America and probably occurs in every county in West Virginia. 

CommentsThis is one wild snake!  When hognose snakes are approached they perform a number of defensive behaviors.  It inflates its body, flattens its head and neck, hisses loudly, and strikes with its mouth closed in the direction of the intruder.  If further provoked, this snake begins to writhe and rub its head against the ground, and finally will plop over onto its back, tongue hanging out, as if it were dead.  If rolled over onto its belly again, it promptly flips back over onto its back with its tongue out. 

This theatrical display has earned the hognose a reputation.  In Appalachia, the hognose is referred to as a spreadhead, puff adder, or blowing viper.  Many people think of it as venomous.  Most people are simply amused by its behavior. 

The saliva of the hognose is mildly toxic.  Bites by this snake can kill small frogs and salamanders.  The toxin is also used to counteract the toxins produced by toads.

This snake feeds primarily on toads!  Toads make up 75 % of its diet, though they will also eat frogs, salamanders, insects, earthworms, small mammals, birds, molluscs, lizards, crustaceans, turtles, centipedes, and spiders.  When toads are captured by this snake, they usually puff up to make them more difficult to swallow.  To counteract this, the hognose has enlarged rear maxillary teeth to puncture and deflate toads.  They also have a broad head, expansive gape, thick body, and they use their snout to burrow for toads. 

StatusNot listed.