Critter Corner - Eastern
DID YOU KNOW:
The hognose snake is a unique, harmless reptile with several
nicknames, including puff adder, hissing viper and spread head
(see their defensive habits to discover why). They are
named hognose because of their shovel-like snout, which helps
them seek out toads in soft, sandy soil.
Hognose snakes stalk and quickly grab frogs and toads with their
mouths. They simply overpower their prey and swallow them
Hognose snakes mate in April or May and Mom lays 15 to 35 eggs in
early summer in decaying woodpiles and rotting logs. The
warmth of the sun and the decomposing wood incubates the eggs.
In early fall, the baby snakes hatch and are entirely on their
In the eastern half of the United States, including Missouri,
snakes can be found along creeks and streams or on woody
hillsides, hiding under rocks and living in burrows dug by other
If frightened, these shy reptiles will stay hidden or quickly
If this doesn't work, they will puff up their bodies to look
much larger, hiss loudly and strike out with closed mouths.
If this doesn't scare danger away they raise the front part of
their bodies and spread out their necks like a cobra! If
still threatened, they may roll over on their backs, stick out
their tongues, go to the bathroom and play dead.
Toads can inflate their bodies with air as a defense
against being eaten. Hognose snakes have special
elongated teeth in the backs of their mouths (not in the
front, nor hollow like copperheads or rattlesnakes).
It is thought that these special teeth may pop the toad,
allowing it to be swallowed.
Hognose snakes vary in color. They may be black,
brown, reddish or cream-colored.
(Photo credits: Hognose snake
on gravel, Brookhaven National Lab; Close-up of head, Indiana
Department of Natural Resources; Hognose playing dead,
Brookhaven National Lab; Black hognose snake, US Fish and