Hog-nosed Snake

Heterodon nasicus

Order: Squamata

Husbandry Information

Housing Requirements

An enclosure at least as long as the snake which provides a temperature gradient, hiding areas and some air flow. These snakes are not generally climbers so enclosures can be fairly short. A few inches of sand make a good substrate as these snakes dig and burrow.

  • Temperature, Humidity, & Lighting:
    • Temperature:
    • Humidity:
    • Lighting:
  • Substrate:

Diet Requirements

  • One or two rodents (size dependent on size of snake) once weekly. As with other snakes, refusal to eat for short periods is not an immediate cause for concern.
  • Amphibians compose a large portion of wild snakes’ diets. Wild caught or young individuals can be reluctant to eat rodents and may have to go through a transition process before they will accept them. This may start by sneaking small rodents in with or after a toad, then feeding rodents which have been scented by rubbing them on a toad before finally moving to a standard rodent diet.

Veterinary Concerns

Notes on Enrichment & Training


Colony or Breeding Management

Notes species is housed or managed socially or for breeding purposes.

Individual Identification

Dimorphism or practiced ways to individually mark species (such as those in colonies, like giant millipedes).

Programmatic Information


hot water bottle

Temperature Guidelines

  • Brandywine Zoo: During cool weather (under 65°F), supplemental heat is provided with a hot water bottle set to one side of the cooler.



  • Brandywine Zoo: reptiles travel in a Coleman style coolers that have been amended with extra ventilation holes on the lid (with a wood-burning tool). Small and medium sized snakes travel inside an inside-out, knotted pillowcase. Large snakes travel loose in the cooler that is also bungeed shut.
  • lg cooler sm cooler cooler

Tips on Presentation

  • Most snakes will allow touching without a problem. Present with head away from audience. Control head gently without restraining.

Touching Techniques

Tips on Handling

  • Support as much of the body as possible on a level plane.
  • When threatened hognose snakes often bluff strike (without opening the mouth), play dead (flip onto back and open mouth) and/or musk/deficate. This behavior usually stops once the snake becomes accustomed to handling. Gloves and/or a towel can help mediate the effects in the interim.


Potential Messaging

  • Snakes are an important link in the food chain. They provide food for many bird and mammal species that prey on them. The main diet of most snakes is rodents. Therefore, snakes provide a very valuable service – pest control. Most snakes are non-venomous and will avoid humans if they can. Venomous snakes want to use their venom to kill small prey animals or to defend themselves; since humans are too big to be considered prey by most snakes, the best way to avoid a bite is not to make the snake feel threatened. Ask guests to avoid any snakes they may see in the wild and appreciate them from a distance. http://www.capesnakeconservation.com/snake-conservation-whats-the-point/http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/rattlesnake_roundups/facts/rattlesnake_roundups.html
  • In general, animals seen at the zoo do not make good pets. Most have specialized dietary, veterinary, housing, and social needs that are difficult or impossible for even dedicated pet owners to meet. Always ensure that your future pet has not been taken from the wild. Capture of wild animals for the pet trade has significantly damaged the survival prospects of species such as sloths, tamanduas, and many parrots. Captured animals are typically mistreated by profit-motivated traffickers and dealers, resulting in many animal deaths; well-meaning animal lovers may feel like they are rescuing animals by purchasing them but are really perpetuating the cruelty. In addition, many exotic pets are released by their owners when they become too dangerous or demanding, often with devastating effects on local ecosystems. Animals that should never be kept as pets include all bats, primates, and exotic carnivores. Birds, fish, and reptiles have specialized needs, are frequently wild-caught, and damage the local environment if released; guests should be advised to educate themselves and proceed with caution. Domestic dogs and cats are almost always the best option! Many deserving animals are available for adoption at animal shelters. http://www.philadelphiazoo.org/Save-Wildlife/Images/PetWalletBro2012.aspxhttp://pin.primate.wisc.edu/aboutp/pets/index.html

Acquisition Information

  • Most hognose snake species are maintaining stable populations and are, therefore, able to be captured from the wild with appropriate permits.

Comments from the Rating System

  • Lee Richardson Zoo: Very easy to handle once accustomed to the process and a few years old. Young or new snakes will bluff-strike and musk frequently.
  • Maryland Zoo in Baltimore: Can stress; diet can be tricky.

Natural History Information

Range and Habitat

Found in areas with sandy or gravelly soil primarily throughout the Great Plains. Range sparsely extends to southern Canada, northern Mexico and from Colorado to Arkansas.

Physical Description

Named for it’s upturned snout which is similar in appearance to that of a pig. Body color varies from light yellow to brown with dark brown blotches down the back and smaller ones on the sides. Belly color is lighter with black “piano key” type blotches. Scales are keeled and rough to the touch. Adults may reach 14 to 27 inches with females growing larger than males. Commonly mistaken for bullsnakes and rattlesnakes by those who are unfamiliar with species differentiations.

Life Cycle

Live ~15-18 years. Mate in May after emerging from brumation and lay clutches of 4-23 eggs just below the soil in July. Eggs incubate for ~2 months. Females generally clutch every other year.


Defense mechanisms often begin with hood spreading and false striking and transition into playing dead. When playing dead the snake will flip onto its back, regurgitate recently eaten food and defecate.

Threats and Conservation Status

Hognose snakes are not usually found in agricultural land so the transition of prairie land to crop land may have some negative impact on regional populations. Over all, however they are stable throughout their range and considered of “least concern” on the IUCN Red List.

Did you know…

  • Hognose snakes are mildly venomous but their “fangs” are located in the rear of the mouth. The genus name “heterodon” means “different tooth” which is a reference to these fangs. In order to inject the venom into an animal, the hognose can be seen “chewing” on its prey. The mild nature of the venom combined with the rear fangs and mild disposition allow this snake to remain a useful education animal.




Any Documents to attach, species spotlights, etc.

Contributors and Citations

  • Houston Zoo, Natural Encounters
  • Lee Richardson Zoo