Eastern Hog-nosed Snake
(Heterodon platirhinos)

The Eastern Hog-nosed Snake is thick bodied and can reach over one meter in length, but more typically grows in the range of 50-85 centimeters. The patterns and colouration can be highly differential from individual to individual, as dark blotches running along the back and side of the snake can be present or completely absent, and body colour can range from brown to olive, and even black in rare instances (melanistic). The distinctive feature, from which the snake gets its name, is the presence of long scales at the nose, giving the snake an upturned snout.

 The Eastern Hog-nosed Snake breeds in the spring and late summer, with the female laying eggs usually in June or July. The size of the clutch can be highly variable, from seven to 37 eggs, with an average of 10 to 18. A burrow where the eggs are laid is excavated in sandy soil by the snake using its upturned snout, although rotting logs and under rocks and leaves are also used occasionally. The Eastern Hog-nosed Snake has a very unique defense tactic as, if threatened, will raise its head and flatten its neck similar to a cobra, hiss loudly and lunge towards the threat with its mouth closed, rarely biting. If this fails to work the snake may roll onto its back and play dead, leaving its mouth gaping open with tongue hanging out, while emitting a foul-smelling odour. The species diet consists largely of American and Fowler’s Toads, but will also feed on frogs, salamanders, turtle eggs, small mammals and birds.

The preferred habitat of the Eastern Hog-nosed Snake are that of fields, forests, shrublands, beaches, and old dune habitats found within areas with sandy, well-drained soils, as such is necessary for both gestation and hibernation. The physiography surrounding much of the upper east branch of the Sydenham River is comprised of sand plains and this, coupled with the presence of other preferred areas of the Hog-nosed Snake, provides important habitat for the species. Due to the Eastern Hog-nosed Snake’s preferred habitat often corresponding with prime recreational and agricultural areas, habitat loss and fragmentation remains the main threat to the species. Road mortalities and persecution by people are also issues, often due to the unique defense tactic of the snake.

 

eastern hog-nosed snake

photo courtesy of outdooralabama.com