When my oldest son was about six years old, he discovered a snake close to where he was playing. He called to his sister who then called to me, saying there was a baby copperhead in the grass. I rushed outside and, on first glance, the little snake did look like a copperhead. Worried about my children, I told my son to bring something I could use to “take care of it”. He came from the house with a container to put it in — not quite what I had in mind — so we pushed it into the clear bowl.
The snake immediately flipped over, opened its mouth, and dropped out its tongue. It was playing dead! Though the copperhead would have wanted its life spared, it wouldn’t know that trick. A few years earlier, we had found a much-larger, black-colored snake that did the same thing. This little snake was an eastern hognose.
Just to be sure, I did a quick Internet search of photos and found pictures of hognose snakes that were similar in color to copperheads. Through the bowl, we looked at its nose; it was a little upturned. We now had a confirmed hognose on our hands.
When we found the previous snake, we learned that hognose snakes aren’t venomous, rarely bite, and are sometimes kept as pets. Within a few minutes, the snake was no longer frightened.
My children named the hognose Snake-ily, and we soon let him go in the yard again. It was fall, and Snake-ily would be hibernating soon. But we took advantage of the discovery to learn even more about this unusual reptile.
Eastern Hognose Facts:
The eastern hognose can be found in the eastern half of the United States from southern Canada to Florida. They prefer woodlands with sandy soil, farmland, fields, and coastal areas.
Hognose snakes are diurnal, which means they are active during the day. At night, they usually burrow in loose soil.
Hognose snakes use their upturned snouts to dig around in the dirt to stir up prey. Their favorite food is toads, although they also eat other types of amphibians, reptiles, small mammals, and even birds.
Hognose snakes react in several different ways when threatened. They may puff out the skin around their necks and raise their heads off the ground like cobras. They may hiss and lunge at their attackers. If these tactics fail, they try to trick their attacker by flipping over and playing dead! To be safe, you should never try to handle a wild snake, even if you think it isn’t venomous.
Want to learn more? Check out these great sites:
“Eastern Hognose Snake”, New Hampshire PBS
“Eastern Hognose”, Florida Museum of Natural History
“Eastern Hognose Snake”, BioKids, University of Michigan