Western Hognose Snake
Here at Wildwood Zoo, we have one male juvenile hognose snake that came to our facility in September 2019 from a private breeder. He was named by our summer campers and is officially dubbed "Salazar Slothy Ice Cream Slytherin the Third". He is one of our animal ambassadors and is in training to be presented at programs.
The western hognose snake is a relatively small, stout-bodied snake. Its color and pattern is highly variable between subspecies, although most specimens appear much like rattlesnakes to the untrained eye. Males are considerably smaller than females, with adults rarely exceeding a total length of 15–20 inches. This snake gets its common name, "hognose", from the modified rostral (nose) scale that is formed in an upturned manner, providing a very "hog-like" look. Additionally, this adaptation makes these snakes adept burrowers. The species is nonvenomous, but possesses potentially irritating saliva that may cause symptoms like localized slight swelling and itching. The extremely rare bite from this rear-fanged snake is not regarded as of medical importance to humans. In captivity, the species has been bred into about 52 different "designer" color morphs.
The western hognose snake is primarily diurnal. It is typically a docile snake (though known to be highly defensive in some individuals). If threatened, it may flatten its neck (much like a cobra), hiss, and make 'mock' or 'bluff' strikes if harassed. Subsequently, even when further harassed, western hognose snakes virtually never bite as a self-defense mechanism, but will instead usually resort to playing dead. Although it is more common that it will flatten its head, some individuals may puff up, filling the throat with air. This is more common with adolescent males.
The western hognose snake occurs from southern Canada throughout the United States to northern Mexico. It has been found at elevations of up to 2500 meters.
It frequents areas with sandy or gravelly soils, including prairies, river floodplains, scrub and grasslands, semi-deserts, and some semi agricultural areas.
Adult western hognose snakes have been observed in copulation as early as February and March. The species is oviparous, with females laying 4-23 elongate, thin-shelled eggs in June–August. The eggs take approximately 60 days to hatch. Each hatchling is 5–9 inches in total length, and reaches sexual maturity after approximately two years (this is predominantly based on size, not so much age).
In the wild: 9-19 years
In human care: 15-20 years
In the wild, the western hognose snake feeds predominately on amphibians, such as large and medium-sized tree frogs, as well as small or medium-sized toads and small lizards. Not being a true constrictor, they bite and chew, driving the rear fangs into the prey as a way of introducing the saliva to help break down the toxins from toads. There have been many cases of hognose snakes in captivity that will not eat for about two to three-and-a-half months, from the months January to mid-March. This is because hognose snakes' instinct is to brumate underground during the winter months.