Eastern Hognose Snake

eastern hognose snake_5669While driving down a country road in southern Illinois this month, I came across one of the most unusual serpents in North America. This snake is found in woodlands with sandy soil, fields, farmland and coastal areas. It is active during the day.

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This Eastern Hognose Snake gets its name from its upturned snout, which it uses to dig up its favorite food – toads. It is medium-sized, usually 2 to 3 feet in length and stocky. This reptile can be yellow, brown, gray, black, olive or even orange. It often has large rectangle-shaped spots and blotches down its back and sides, but it can also be solid black or gray.

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The “claim to fame” of this creature is its remarkable defensive behavior. It will first hiss loudly and inflate its neck in a cobra-like fashion. This has led to local names like “puff adder” or “hissing viper.” It is only bluffing, however, and rarely bites. Its bite is harmless to humans.

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Then, if the bluff fails to ward off the potential predator, the Eastern Hognose Snake will begin writhing about before flipping over on its back and playing dead. At this point the it will appear to be completely lifeless, unless turned over on its belly, upon which it will promptly flip over on its back again.

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Female Hognose Snakes lay their eggs in early summer and the young snakes hatch out about 60 days later; they are able to spread their necks and hiss immediately upon hatching.

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I was thrilled to come across this extraordinary creature that I have not seen in the wild in several years.

Third Eye Herp