the Western Hognose Snake
• Common Name: Western Hognose
Snake aka Plains Hognose
• Scientific Name: Heterodon nasicus
• Distribution: Southern Canadian border throughout the
Midwestern U.S. to Mexico
Size: Adult hognose can range
in length between 12" - 35". Adult males can range in
weight between 50 - 150+ grams. Adult females can range in weight
between 200 - 700+ grams.
Lifespan: Hognose snakes are
long lived, and thrive in captivity with proper care. Life spans
of 20 years or more are not unusual.
Appearance: Hognose snakes are
relatively small, stout-bodied snakes. Their color and pattern
is highly variable from subspecies to subspecies, although most
are a light sandy brown in color, with darker brown or gray blotching.
Hognose snakes get their common name from their upturned snout,
providing a "hog-like" look. This adaptation aids in
digging in the soil and makes these snakes adept burrowers, which
is a useful skill when hunting or seeking
refuge from the elements. Hog-nosed snakes are considered to be
"rear-fanged" colubrids, but are generally considered
harmless to humans. Being rear-fanged, they possess a set of modified
teeth located far back in the mouth that produce a mild toxin,
used typically to subdue toads and small mammals. A nip from one
of these animals typically causes no more consequence than that
of similar harmless colubrids however, prolonged "chewing"
may result in localized irritation, swelling, headache, or nausea.
To our knowledge, there are no known reports of any serious envenomation
from these animals.
Habitat: Western Hognose are
found in a wide range spanning southern Canada through the central
United States into northern Mexico. They live in sparsely vegetated
habitats on well-drained soils, such as dry prairie or oak savanna.
Housing: As a result of their
small size, hognose snakes are housed easily in reasonably sized
glass terrariums. While smaller quarters may suffice, a standard
20 gallon enclosure (or equivalent) is ideal for a single adult
or even a male/female pair. A secure lid is a must, as these snakes,
like all snakes, are pros at escaping from unsecured cages. A
fully screened lid is advisable to avoid excess humidity and to
ensure proper ventilation and air exchange. A small, shallow water
bowl should always be present for these snakes. A sturdy dish
is recommended to prevent spills should a curious snake decide
to burrow beneath a full bowl of water.
Heat and Lighting: Reptiles,
including Hognose thermo regulate. For them to do this, they need
a gradient in the enclosure that will allow them to move from
a warm area to a cool area and back as needed. As
a temperate species, hognose snakes can tolerate a wide range
of temperatures. However, in captivity it is advisable to provide
an ambient daytime temperature of between 82-85 degrees. One section
of the enclosure may be safely heated to 90 degrees, so long as
the animal has access to cooler areas within the enclosure. Nighttime
temperatures can be slightly cooler, with 75 to 78 degrees being
a desired target. Again, by providing a thermal gradient (one
warm side, one cooler side) within the enclosure, one can be assured
that the snake can choose the temperature that suits it needs
at any given time.
Heat can be provided for hognose snakes in a variety of ways.
Standard incandescent heat lights, under tank heating pads, ceramic
heat emitters, and infrared bulbs are all acceptable. The use
of a high quality thermometer is essential to ensure that temperatures
are at proper levels.
snakes prefer a dry substrate in which they can easily dig burrows,
or at the very least bury themselves. Hognose snakes can tolerate
very dry conditions, and little or no concern should be given
to attempting to manipulate the cage humidity. Should shedding
issues occur, a small, localized area of increased moisture may
be provided temporarily, but should be eliminated once the problems
Aspen shavings and chips are highly recommended. Avoid excessively
dusty beddings or ones that may promote unhealthy humidity levels
such as mulches or barks.
When hognose are kept at the correct temperatures they have a
very fast metabolism. As a result, prey can be offered to hatchlings
every 3-4 days year round. For adults, feeding every 4-5 days
will suffice. Prey items that are no larger than the largest area
of the snake should be offered. Bigger is not better when it comes
to feeding hognose. A prey item of appropriate size should produce
a slight, but noticeable, bulge in the snake’s belly after
ingestion. Hatchlings will require pinky (newborn) mice, while
adults will readily consume adult sized mice.
Just as any other snake, Hognose snakes can be freely handled
keeping in mind that over handling can lead to stress in any captive
reptile. They are primarily diurnal, and make use of a variety
of habitats, including shortgrass prairies, grasslands, and rocky,
semi-arid regions. They are typically docile snakes but wild caught
snakes have been known to be highly aggressive in some individuals.
If threatened or a threat is perceived, they may flatten their
necks (much like a cobra), hiss and make mock strikes if harassed,
occasionally they even play dead if stressed enough.
Males can breed as early as 12 months of age and at a weight of
around 50+ grams. Females can breed as early as 18 months and
175+ grams, but it is highly recommended you wait until females
are over 24 months of age and 200+ grams. I think the ideal age
and weight for a female hognose is 24+ months and 250+ grams before
being put into a breeding project.