eastern hognose snake (Heterodon platyrhinos)
CHARACTERISTICS: This is a stout, medium-sized snake that grows
to lengths of 20-33 in. (51-84 cm). The upturned nose is characteristic.
This docile snake is also identifiable by its tendency to inflate its head
and neck, coil, hiss and strike when initially disturbed. It does not bite,
however, and if this display does not scare away the predator, the snake
will writhe and feign death. It is quite variable in color, but usually tan to
dark brown, and sometimes yellowish. The back has darker brown to tan
blotches, which fade with age so that some older snakes are all brown.
The belly is cream to yellow with light brown blotches. The juvenile is
similar to the adult in pattern and coloration. This species is not usually
confused with any other snake because of its behavior when found in the
field. No other Virginia species possesses the upturned nose. This snake
emerges from hibernation in late March or early April and mates shortly
thereafter. The eggs, numbering 4-60, are laid in June or July and hatch
in late July to early September. This snake is completely terrestrial but
will enter water to migrate between areas. It is also active during daylight
hours, is seldom found under surface objects, and may burrow into sandy
soil at night and during winter hibernation.
DISTRIBUTION: This species is found statewide in Virginia. The east-
ern hognosed snake avoids wet areas and prefers open, sandy habitats. It
is found in fields, open grassy areas adjacent woods, and open pine, mixed
pine-hardwood, and hardwood forests. It is seldom found in dense wooded
tracts, but is often found in the edge areas.
FOODS: This species will burrow to capture buried prey. Hognosed
snakes are almost exclusively predators of toads, although other prey are
occasionally taken, including frogs, newts, salamanders, and even small
rodents. Toads inflate themselves as a defensive measure, but hognose
snakes have a pair of enlarged teeth on the maxillary bones that are used
to deflate them, thus aiding in swallowing. The toxins found in the skin
glands of toads are neutralized by enzymes in the snake's digestive tract.
Crooked Run Valley