Want a Cute, Secretly Venomous Pet? Meet the Hognose Snake
If you want to be able to tell someone you have a venomous snake as a pet, get a hognose snake. They're technically venomous, but it's not nearly potent enough to cause harm to humans.
No one has to know that, though. Let them think you're tough and fearless, while you put tiny hats on your adorable, harmless hognose snake at home. If you're not convinced, these pictures and fun facts might seal the deal.
Yes, Hognose Snakes Are Venomous
If you see this adorable snake in the wild, you'd never guess it's venomous. But the venom of the hognose snake is very mild, intended only for subduing prey. Since the teeth that deliver venom are found in the back of the snake's upper jaw, even if a person does get bitten by their pet snake, envenomation is unlikely.
Say your hognose snake genuinely mistakes your finger for a mouse and chomps down with those fangs. What then? You still don't have much to worry about. Bites are very uncommon, but at most, you'll have some itching, mild swelling and blistering.
They Look Like Tiny Cinnamon Rolls With Scales
Hognose snakes are very small compared to other popularly kept snake species, like ball pythons.
Females are larger than males when they reach adulthood, but both sexes are petite. Males rarely top 2 feet in length, while females top out around 3 feet.
They Look a Little Like Rattlesnakes
If you see a small, snub-nosed snake in the wild, don't freak out. Hognose snakes look eerily similar to young rattlesnakes, so people often kill them on impulse without realizing that they're completely harmless.
Before you react, take a closer look. Hognose snakes have a much more pointed snout than a rattlesnake, and their tails lack the signature rattling mechanism found at the end of a rattler's tale.
Their Bark Is Worse Than Their Bite
Hognose snakes are very docile, but that's not what they'd lead you to believe. When they feel threatened, they put on quite a melodramatic display. First, they flare out their neck and hiss loudly. If that doesn't scare off the impending intruder, they excrete an unpleasant musky scent, similar to a skunk. As a last resort, hognose snakes go limp, dramatically playing dead until they're convinced the threat is gone.
On the off chance a hognose snake does strike at you defensively, it's probably only bluffing. Most of the time, these strikes are done without even opening their mouth in an attempt to scare you away, not to actually hurt you.
Like Most Snake Species, Hognose Snakes Lay Eggs
Like ball pythons and corn snakes, hognose snakes lay eggs. Females can lay up to 30 eggs at a time, usually in late spring or early summer. Eggs take between 55 to 65 days to hatch. They must be kept in a damp nest box kept in the low 80 degrees Fahrenheit to maximize the chances of them hatching.
Once it's time, hognose hatchlings peck out of their eggs using a sharp egg tooth, which disappears not long after birth.
The Hognose Snake's Adorable Nose Serves a Purpose
Hognose snakes use their pointy little noses to scoop up humus. Humus, not to be confused with a Mediterranean appetizer, is loose compost material that often hides lizard eggs, frogs, toads and other small animals that hoggies like to snack on.
Their nose functions like a shovel, scooping up loose dirt and leaves until they run into dinner.
In the Wild, Hognose Snakes Eat Amphibians
If you've ever seen a ball python or boa constrictor eat, you know the "constrictor" part is no exaggeration. True constrictors squeeze their prey until it's unconscious before chowing down. Hognose snakes, however, aren't really constrictors. They bite into their prey aggressively to inject them with venom that slows them down, making them easier to swallow.
In the wild, they eat mostly frogs and toads, but in captivity, pre-killed rodents are totally fine. They're also a much better option than feeding live rodents, as a mouse can do serious damage to your snake if they don't eat it right away.
They're Not Endangered, so There's No Need to Feel Bad About Keeping Them
The western hognose snake is currently classified as "least concern," while the eastern hognose snake is threatened in some parts of its range. They're all affected by human encroachment on their territory, but their populations are stable and thriving for the most part.
Even if they weren't, reptile hobbyists have been working with hognose snakes for long enough that most of the snakes you come across online or at reptile expos were bred in captivity, not caught in the wild.
If You Have Money to Burn, There Are Some Incredible Morphs to Pick From
Like many other snake species that have been kept as pets for some time, hognose snakes have been selectively bred to come in a wild range of striking patterns and colors. The wild-type hognose, also known as a normal hognose snake, has a pattern of dark ovals running down the back of its tan-colored back, with some additional blotches along its sides. Its belly is usually darker.
Morphs can be any number of colors, including this pure-white morph known as a leucistic hognose.
Whichever Morph You Choose, Hognose Snakes Need Heat
All reptiles are cold-blooded, meaning they rely on their environment to provide heat. Without it, they can't maintain their body temperature and will eventually weaken and die. One side of their enclosure should be warmer than the other, with a hot spot of around 82 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
Heat mats are a popular option, but whichever heating element you choose, make sure to pick up a thermostat, too. Thermostats kill the power to heat mats when your snake's enclosure hits a preset temperature. If no thermostat is used, the heat mat or light source can get hot enough to burn your beloved pet.
Books Don't Make the Best Snake Bedding
Snake bedding, properly called substrate, is an important part of their enclosure. Hognose snakes need lower humidity than tropical species, so aspen shavings are a good choice. Always avoid cedar, pine and redwood shavings, as these are toxic to almost all reptiles.
Eco earth substrate works well, but stick with aspen if the humidity climbs over 50 percent.
The Ultra-Dramatic Hognose Snake Needs a Hide to Feel Safe
Hognose snakes are rather shy creatures, and they need somewhere cozy and safe to curl up to feel secure. Hides come in all shapes and sizes, and placing one at each side of the enclosure will keep your hoggy from getting stressed.
Choose a hide that's just large enough for them to curl up in. Extra room might seem like a benefit, but they feel safer with a snug fit.
Hognose Snakes Are Curious
Hognose snakes benefit from coming out of their enclosure to explore, and they will happily weave around objects and your hands. That said, reptiles don't crave attention or belly rubs as a dog would. They don't mind being handled, but pick them up gently. Never restrain a snake, instead allowing it to explore freely.
To avoid stressing them out, avoid handling them more than once daily. A few times a week is better. Additionally, don't handle them for at least 48 hours after they've been fed, or they may regurgitate their meal.
Hognose Snakes Shouldn't Be Housed in Groups
While keeping most mammals in pairs or groups is usually beneficial, the same can't be said for most pet snakes. Hognose snakes should be housed individually. The only time experienced keepers place two hognose snakes in the same enclosure is when they're trying to breed them.
In these cases, they are well fed before introducing one snake to the other's enclosure. Otherwise, there's a chance the larger of the two, usually the female, might see the other as dinner. And you thought the human dating pool was stressful!
Reptile Expos Are Great Places to Find a Hognose Snake
If you love the look of hognose snakes and think you're ready to bring one home, consider visiting a reptile expo. Almost all reptile expos will have a number of hognose snakes available for purchase, and breeders will happily share their knowledge with you to make sure your first hognose-keeping experience is a success.
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