cityreptiles

Western Hognose Snake Care Sheet

Size:

Length: 16-25 inches (record 35 inches)

Range:

Southern Alberta and northwest Manitoba, south to southeast Arizona, Texas, and into northern Mexico. Also Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri, and Arkansas.

Habitat:

Relatively dry, sandy prairie areas, scrubland and river floodplains

General Temperament:

A wild caught specimen may flatten its head and neck, hiss, and even strike but rarely, if ever, bites. If agitated to an extreme, the animal may even "play 'possum" by rolling over and playing dead. Captive hatched babies will also display some of these behaviors but both wild caught and captive bred usually lose their willingness to display these behaviors. Since these animals are protected by laws in some of their range, it is best to try to obtain a captive bred individual.

Caging:

Except in the case of an exceptionally large hognose, a 10 gallon aquarium is big enough for this species. Substrates commonly used include Astroturf, cypress mulch, aspen bedding, coarse sand, and newspaper (at least two weeks old to allow the ink to dry). Never, never, never use ground corncob as substrate for reptiles. Cob is easily ingested by the animals when they eat and can kill the animal by causing intestinal blockage (cob swells when it absorbs water). Since hognose are burrowers, either cypress mulch, aspen bedding, or coarse sand would probably be the best choice of substrate. (Be careful when using sand - again it can cause serious problems by being ingested when the snake eats.)

A hide box should be provided to give the animal the privacy that snakes require. The cage can be decorated with driftwood or climbing limbs as well as flat rocks and bark to provide hiding places. All of these will help the snake during its shed.

Temperature:

Daytime temperatures should be 75-85F with nighttime temperatures 8-10 cooler. Hot rocks are not suggested as basking sites because they can develop hot spots that can cause thermal burns. A better choice of heat sources is an under-tank heater, some of which are adhesive and can also cause thermal burns. To prevent this problem, cover the heated area with slate (which diffuses the heat) and cover the slate with substrate. A basking site can be provided by placing an incandescent bulb (outside of the tank) over a rock at one end of the tank. Make sure that the animal can escape the heat to a cooler spot at the opposite end of the aquarium.

Food:

In the wild this animal will eat toads, lizards, snakes, and reptile eggs. It will also take ground nesting birds and small rodents. Captive hatched will readily feed on pre-killed mice appropriately sized for the snake being fed. According to Dr. Roger Conant in the Peterson Field Guide, young may also feed on crickets and other insects. Wild caught can, with patience, be conditioned to eat pre-killed prey.

Water Requirements:

A bowl filled with fresh, clean water should be provided at all times.

Social Structure:

Solitary except during breeding season (March through April in the wild).

Activity period:

Active during morning and late afternoon hours (crepuscular).

Miscellaneous Information:

Hognoses seem to mimic rattlesnake species found in their range. Western hognose look very much like prairie rattlesnakes (Crotalus virdis virdis); Eastern hognose resemble a dark-phase timber rattlesnake, etc. An excellent article on this subject was published in the December, 1990 Tropical Fish Hobbyist magazine. Hognose snakes are also commonly known as puff or spreading adder or blow viper because of their defensive behavior (spreading its hood, hissing, etc.). The animal is harmless. Eastern hognose are not recommended as pets because they are frog and toad eaters and can be difficult, if not impossible, to feed during the winter.

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