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Species Description

Eastern Hognose Snake

Heterodon platirhinos


Species Image

Classification

Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae

Description

Variety of ground colors including yellow, brown, gray, olive, and reddish. The back has a series of dorsal blotches of dark brown or black. Some individuals may not have any pattern at all and be plain black or gray. The belly is mottled with gray or greenish on a yellow, light gray, or pinkish background. The underside of the tail is lighter than the belly color. A stocky, medium-sized snake. Average adult size ranges from 51 - 84 cm (20.1 - 33.1 in). The Eastern Hognose Snake gets its common name from the specialized upturned scale at the tip of the snout which is used for burrowing in loose soil or sand.

Life Cycle

The Eastern Hognose Snake breeds in the early spring. From 5 - 45 eggs are laid in June or July in burrows excavated by the female in loose soil or sand. The eggs hatch in about 60 days and the boldy patterned young begin feeding on insects and small amphibians shortly after hatching.

Natural History

Many people of the South refer to this snake as the "Spreading Adder" because the Hognose Snake has a unique defense behavior when threatened by a predator. The first line of defense is to spread the ribs immediately behind the head to form a "hood." This is accompanied by loud hissing and striking with the mouth closed. If this fails to scare off the attacker, the snake will open its mouth, roll over onto its back, and play dead. Because of this "spreading hood" behavior, which reminds people of the venomous cobras of Asia and Africa, many of these snakes are killed by people who believe them to be venomous. In reality these snakes are not dangerous to humans and will never bite when handled. The Eastern Hognose Snake eats primarily amphibians, especially toads.

Range

Eastern Hognose Snake Region Map A widely distributed species in the eastern United States, this snake ranges from Massachusetts west to Minnesota and south to southern Texas. The Eastern Hognose Snake ranges throughout the state of Georgia. Populations are localized, however, and limited to areas of loose or sandy soils, which are its preferred habitat.

Conservation Status

This species is uncommon, but it is not listed as a Threatened or Endangered species.

Similar Species

The Southern Hognose Snake is smaller in size, lighter in color, and the underside of its tail is not lighter than the belly.