Western hognose snakes are a small colubrid originating in North America. The have amazing defensive tactics and are one of the only species in the world to ‘play dead’ to prevent being eaten by predators. They are even able to bleed from the mouth if they are very threatened.
Western hognoses have distinctive characteristics and have a beak like face. The hard scale on the top of the nose helps them to bury down in the ground and move around in their environment.
Westerns hognoses are rear-fanged venomous snakes but their venom is so mild that it rarely effects humans. Occasionally those with allergies or low immune systems can have a reaction to western hognose venom but the effects are generally mild.
Western hognoses down strike for food like other snakes. They grab their food sideways and munch their food whilst turning it around to enable them to eat the prey item.
HOUSING YOUR SNAKE
There are a number of wooden, plastic and glass enclosure available for western hognoses. Always purchase an enclosure which is a suitable size for your animal. Plastic or wooden and part glass enclosures are the best as glass alone can make it hard to control temperature. Always try to use a thermostat with your enclosure to enable the snake to gain suitable hot and cold temperatures.
Western hognoses are a relatively small snake, with females getting larger than males. Although they get smaller than corn snakes when older, the set up kits are the same with different heat settings on the thermostat and different substrate. We can adapt any of our snake kits for western hognoses.
For an adult western hognose female, we would suggest a 3-4ft vivarium whereas depending on the size of your adult male, you may only require a 3ft vivarium. Along with vivariums there are also wooden terrariniums available with glass viewing panel- these go from 1.5ft through to 3ft, or plastic faunariums which can be used for hatchling through to juvenile snakes.
HANDLING YOUR SNAKE:
When handling your hognose it is important to use an antibacterial hand wash before and after touching your animal. This ensure that no parasites or bacteria is passed between you and your snake.
When handling always use a hook to gently stroke the snakes head to let it know you are going to touch it- we call this tap-training. Over time, the snake is able to distinguish between feeding and handling times by not expecting food once it has been stroked gently on the nose. This should be continued throughout the snakes life.
Gently pick the snake up by scooping around 2/3 of the way down the snakes body. Don’t restrict the snake and try not to hold the first 3rd of the snake where the vital organs are, this can cause discomfort to your snake. Always leave 48 hours or more after feeding your snake before handling to prevent bites and discomfort to your animal which can cause regurgitation. We advise not to handle your snake 48 hours before feeding- especially for fussy feeders.
As hognoses eat from the sides and turn their food around, be weary of your snake rubbing the side of its head along your hand or finger- it may have mistaken it for food. Always wash hands thoroughly and do not handle with prey items in the room.
Genus, Species: Heterodon nasicus
Adult Size: 2-3 feet
Lifespan: 15-20 Years
Diet: Mice once a week
Ambient Temp (f): 85-88
Basking Temp (f): 90-93
Humidity (%): 50-60
Locality: North America Difficulty: 2
Breeding Age: Female: 2-3 Years, Male: 12- 18 Months
Social Structure: Live alone except breeding times
- Dust free substrate
- A water bowl large enough for your snake to submerse in
- Hides or décor on hot and cold sides
- A thermometer to check the temperatures
- Ideally a thermostat
- Feeding tongs: steel ones are a good idea
- A pet care book / care sheet
- Heat bulb/ceramic/heat mat
- A reptile safe disinfectant for cleaning
- A Rat or Mouse for feeding your snake
SEXING YOUR SNAKE:
Male and female snakes may differ between sizes and length of tail, but to get an accurate gender there are 2 methods.
1- probe your snake by sliding the probe under the vent towards the tail. If the probe goes in a small amount then the snake is female, if the snake is male the probe will slide further, this is where the hemipenes are located.
2- ‘pop’ the snake by holding the snakes tail in one hand and gently rolling towards the vent with the other exposing the genitals. Hognose snakes cannot really be popped and so tail size and probing are good ways to sex.
Snakes can be badly damaged during sexing and should only be sexed by a professional.
It is important to regularly check the health of your western hognose and there are a few common diseases and disorders to look out for.
Eyes– check the eyes are clear of infection, discharge or stuck eye caps (these can occur from a dry shed, increase the humidity or place snake on soak periodically until eye caps come off) you can provide a moss hide for your snake close to shedding time or soak the snake for 20 minutes at a time until the shed comes off.
Skin– check the skin for black spots or raised scales which can be a sign of mites. Mites can usually be seen around the eye socket and under the chin. Mites can be treated using a number of chemical products or for a natural cure, Taurrus predatory mites can be used regularly for prevention and treatment.
Respiratory Infections– RI is a term for a broad spectrum of infections in the lungs and respiratory system. It is generally caused by ill health along with damp or cold conditions and can be treated with a nebuliser. We always recommend seeing the vet if you suspect RI, however it is extremely rare and is not usually the actual cause of the symptoms that are seen.