Hog Nose Snake 1156x650 Suzanne L Collins Science Source

Hog-Nosed Snakes

By Ellen Lambeth

A snake is a snake, right? Don’t be so sure. THIS snake often pretends to be something else altogether!

Hog Nose Snake Oct 2018 RR
Click image for a larger view.

Halloween is a good time to pretend you’re something you’re not. For one fun night, you can dress up as a princess or superhero, a pirate or ghost. You get to turn yourself into anything you want. Well, a hog-nosed snake also puts on an act—and not just on Halloween.

Can you see how the hog-nosed snake got its name? The tip of its snout is turned up like a hog’s. Hognoses are shy, harmless snakes that  live throughout most of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. They come in different colors and patterns—or even no pattern at all. So one good way to tell a hognose from other snakes is by checking out its snout. Hog-nosed snakes also often coil the tips of their tails, as this one is doing.

Like a hog, this snake uses its turned-up snout as a shovel! It digs into sand or soil to uncover buried toads to eat. It also digs to hide itself from danger—or from weather that’s too hot or too cold.

Hog Nose Snake Oct 2018 RR
Click image for a larger view.

The colors on a hog-nosed snake help it blend in with its surroundings. If it stays still among the rocks or dead leaves on the ground, it might go unnoticed. A nervous hognose might even twitch its tail tip in dry leaves, making a rustling sound. Uh-oh, is that a rattlesnake? Better stay back!

What if a hungry hawk, bigger snake, or other predator notices a hognose and comes closer? The hognose rarely bites or fights back.  Instead, it puffs up its body to appear too big to eat. It may open its mouth wide and hiss. It may even raise its head and flatten its neck, which might remind you of a deadly cobra. Scared yet?

What if digging in, hiding out, and acting scary don’t work? Then the hognose performs its final act: roll over and play possum (pretend to be dead)! The snake may even flop out its tongue for extra effect. This might work against predators that prefer live prey. And what’s worse than just plain dead? Dead, gross, and stinky. This snake may also throw up its last meal—and poop out smelly stuff, too. Pee-yoo! If all this bluffing works and the threat disappears, the snake just flips right side up and slithers away to live another day. Yay! 

VIDEO: Watch a hog-nosed snake in action!

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