Meet the Critters! The Western Hognose Snake

Our baby hognose demonstrating his species' defensive posture.

 

Our classroom is home to over 30 live critters native to Cheyenne Bottoms.  This week, we’d like to introduce you to the western hognose snake.  Our hognose is one of our newest additions to KWEC, we purchased the male from a captive breeder only a month ago.  He is just a few months old, and with luck, could live to 20 years or more!

The western hognose snake is found throughout western North America,  and is common through most of its range.  It is endangered in Iowa, and considered threatened in Illinois and South Dakota.

At hatching, the western hognose snake is just 2-3 inches in length.  At maturity, they can reach up to 39 inches in length.  Our male, however, is unlikely to get much longer than 20-24 inches.   The most distinctive feature of the hognose snake is it’s upturned nose.  This piggy feature helps the hognose snake burrow through the soil, seeking prey or shelter from the elements

The western hognose snake is harmless to humans, but does produce a very mild toxin used to subdue their prey before swallowing it alive.  In the wild, hognose snakes eat frogs, toads, small lizards, smaller snakes, reptile eggs, rodents, and even small birds.

He's much more relaxed in this photo.

One of the most fascinating things about the hognose snake (eastern and western) is its defensive behavior.  When the snake feels threatened, it will first flatten its head and hiss, mimicking a dangerous viper.  If this does not deter its foe, the hognose will then writhe as if in pain, cover itself in a foul smelling musk, flip onto its back, and play dead – complete with mouth open and tongue hanging out.  This performance is very convincing, and usually deters any would be predators from dining on the snake.

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