Western Hognose Snake (Heterodon nasicus)

Description: Nose upturned, dull olive to pale brown with 29-52 dark patterns on back, similar to the Prairie Rattlesnake. Belly with large black areas that may be intermixed with some white and yellow. Underside of tail is dark, similar to belly.

Habitat: Dry prairie grasslands on sandy soils.

Size: Typical adult length: 41-64 cm (16-25 in) Maximum: 39 inches (Collins & Collins 1993).

Diet: Toads, lizards, amphibians, small mammals, and reptile eggs.

Natural History: Hognose snakes often frighten attackers by mimicking the behaviors of rattlesnakes. When pressed they will often roll over and play dead, or will hide their head under body coils. The belly of the hognose is heavily marked with black. Scientists have guessed that exposing this dark belly when playing dead makes the snake look as if it is not only dead but also decomposed.

Mimicking rattlesnakes and playing dead puts the hognose among nature's better actors, but there are limits to its acting abilities. If a hognose is playing dead by turning belly up and you flip the snake right side up again, it will immediately flip belly up again. Evidently they don't know that dead snakes can't turn over. These interesting behaviors occur in both Eastern and Western Hognose snakes but are more common in the Eastern Hognose.

The odd, upturned nose is used for digging. These snakes dig through sandy soils following scent trails to foods such as toads and turtle eggs. Another adaptation for eating toads are enlarged teeth at the rear of upper jaw. A toad under attack can inflate its body with air to avoid being eaten. The hognose's enlarged teeth can puncture and deflate the toad so it can be swallowed easily.

Similar species:

  1. Upturned nose separates this snake from all others except Eastern Hognose Snake. In Eastern Hognose Snake the tail underside is light (lighter than belly) but in the Western Hognose, the underside of the tail is dark (similar to belly).