WESTERN HOGNOSE SNAKE
Squamata (amphisbaenians, lizards and snakes)
HABITAT AND RANGE
Western hognose snakes prefer to live in sandy prairies, scrublands and floodplains. They can be found at elevations of up to 8,000’. They are found east of the Rockies and west of the Mississippi from southern Canada to northern Mexico.
Western hognose snakes are relatively small snakes reaching a maximum length of about 90 cm and weigh an average of 215 grams. Their dorsal surface is light olive green with about 40 darker olive spots. Their ventral surface, however, is almost jet black. Their name is derived from the upturned almost shovel like tip of their snout that they use for burrowing and hiding in the sand and loose gravel.
Western hognose snakes attack small lizards, reptile eggs, birds and small rodents. Their chief source of food, however, are toads which it finds burrowed in the sand (toads can make up 80% of its diet). Toads employ two defense mechanisms when attacked. When a toad is bitten by a snake, it will attempt to swell its body making itself too big to consume. Toads also secrete digitaloid (a toxin that slows the heart to the point of death) when attacked. Hognose snakes have longer teeth in the back of their mouths that can puncture a swelling toad and have enlarged adrenal glands which secrete extra adrenaline to counteract the effects of digitaloid.
REPRODUCTION AND LIFESPAN
Mating season occurs March to May after which 4-23 eggs are laid in early June in a small sandy nest. Young hatch after about 7-9 weeks and are only 6 inches long; they reach maturity in two years. Lifespan is 20-25 years.
When threatened, hognose snakes employ two very unique methods of defense. First the snake will inhale a lot of air to expand its body and flatten out its head. Then it will hiss loudly making itself appear very dangerous. If this method fails it moves onto phase two if its defense. If further threatened, the hognose will mimic intense spasms and then turn itself belly up presenting its black belly. The black belly is intended to mimic a rotting (and unappetizing) carcass. It remains on its back until danger has passed.