|Common Name:||Southern Hognose Snake|
|Scientific Name:||Heterodon simus|
|Life Span:||5 to 9 years|
|Mass:||46 to 120 grams|
|Length:||Around 24 to 40 inches|
|Country of Origin:||United States|
Compared to other hognose snakes, the southern is the smallest of them all. They grow up to 21 inches in length, with the longest one measured at 24 inches. Their heads are dusky brown and short, and they are also characterized by their sharp upturned snouts. Towards their snouts, near the front of their eyes, you will see a dark brown or black stripe. Similarly, there will also be a dark brown or black stripe on both sides of their neck and a short stripe toward the corner of their mouth to the rear of their eye.
Across their bodies, you will be able to see tan, beige, and brown colors with some rows of dark brown patches near to their head and tail. Their tail is also outlined with black, and there is usually a light orange stripe along their back’s center. When you turn them over, their underside can be a variety of colors cream, yellow, white, pinkish brown, or faint brown. This color extends all over the underside of their body, even up to their tails.
Last assessed by the IUCN Red List in 2007, the population of the southern hognose snakes are rapidly decreasing, and they are now classified as Vulnerable.
The main reason for placing much concern for the future of this snake species is more on the status of their habitats. Whether its habitat conversion, loss, or fragmentation, these all just end up in the loss of the homes across the range of this species. This is even more aggravated by pressures on climate change.
Another reason for the deaths of the southern hognose snakes is road accidents since these snakes use roads as a source of warmth. Some motorists do not see them right away, and they just end up being run over in the freeways near their homes. As their coloration can blend in the environments, their sizes are fairly small, their behavior of playing dead whenever they feel threatened, and their slow overall movement makes them highly prone to being road accident victims. To back this up, in North Carolina alone, out of the 764 southern hognose snakes ever seen by humans, 643 of them, which is 84 percent, have been spotted already dead on the road.
Additionally, these snakes also have predators. Most of these deaths are pointed to feral hogs and red imported fire ants. Also, the amount of illegal pet trade, human harassment, and having the snake fungal disease add to the threats against the lives of these reptiles.
There is not much information available on the lifespan of this species of snake, but estimates are about 5 to 9 years.
Availability and Natural Habitat
The southern hognose snakes are usually seen occupying dry upland living environments, longleaf pine ecosystems, sandhill areas, coastal dunes, pine flat woods, and sandy soils. Most of the time, they favor living in places where there is an open canopy with a grassy area.
For specific geographical locations, the southern hognose snakes were originally seen in the Eastern United States, near coastal plains. Their usual spots are located in North Carolina, Mississipi, and in most parts of Florida. Populations are also reported in Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina.
The southern hognose snake is famous for exhibiting theatrical actions for their defensive displays. They tend to flatten their necks, feign their deaths, and hiss to their heart’s contents. Because of these, some people call these snakes hissing sand snake, blow viper, puffer adder, and hissing adder. Despite this flair for drama, southern hognose snakes seldom bite, even when they feel threatened.
For their habitual activities, the southern hognose snakes tend to be more active during the day and are often seen roaming around during the mornings. Despite this, they still prefer staying under the ground.
When they are in the wild, southern hognose snakes usually eat frogs. They use their unique snouts to dig around and search for these amphibians. If they come across eggs from other reptiles and amphibians, they would gladly eat that, too.
When in captivity, on the other hand, southern hognose snakes can be trained to feed on rodents. This diet is much easier to maintain as frozen rodents can be bought.
If you can, try to add variety to your pet southern hognose snake by feeding them these animals:
- African-clawed frogs
- Cane toads
- Cuban tree frogs
- Frozen or thawed anoles
- Gecko tails
- Gray tree frogs
- Quail eggs
- Red-back salamanders
You can feed your pet hognose snake mice and rats throughout their lives. Adults can survive on being fed once a week, while hatchlings can eat every 5 days.
To make sure no digestive problems occur, feed your hognose snake with mice that are about the same width as the thickest part of the snake or a tiny bit larger. Feeding them mice that are too big can cause regurgitation.
If you are feeding your snake with frozen rodents, take time to thaw them out completely before giving them to your pet. Thawing is quite easy, just place the food item in a bowl of warm water for about an hour. Once it is fully thawed, just dry the rodent off and place it inside the cage of your pet snake. Generally, hognose snakes are very easy to feed. But, if you encounter a reluctant one, try wiggling the prey item using some tongs to entice your southern hognose snake.
If you can, you can also opt for feeding live prey or freshly killed ones, depending on your preferences on this matter. Just be aware of certain risks for live feeding mice, like the mouse being aggressive and biting your snake. Mouse bites can result in infections and serious wounds.
Development and Reproduction
At the start of the mating cycle, males might challenge each other and fight over the interest of a female snake. Like other species of snake, southern hognose snakes are known to be polyandrous, meaning females can partner with multiple snakes at a time. The mating process itself usually lasts for about 3 hours.
Upon conception, female snakes create nests. Experts suggest that the nest has been reported to be around 10 to 15 cm under the ground. When the female southern hognose snake lays their eggs around July to August, the eggs hatch after approximately 60 days. The clutch size of these snake species usually ranges from 6 to 19 eggs per clutch.
The southern hognose snakes spend lots of their time hidden during the winters. But it starts its activity for their breeding season and their hatchling season. During the spring, they emerge from hibernation and begin their mating from April until August.
Common Health Problems
Though the southern hognose snake is famous for being hardy snakes, they can still be infected by illnesses just like other reptiles. First, they are highly susceptible to acquiring respiratory health concerns. This can be exhibited through lethargy, wheezing, and drooling. To avoid respiratory diseases, make sure that your pet will not be exposed to improper and over-humid environments.
Aside from that, other common things to look out for are mouth rot and stomatitis. This can be exhibited through saliva bubbles, swollen mouths, and inflammations near the mouth. Though they cannot express it to you, having stomatitis is very painful to your pet, and it can lead to even more problematic conditions, like all the teeth of your snake falling out.
Additionally, the southern hognose snake can also contract fungal infections, which can be distinguished through problems like skin discoloration.
Though there are other diseases that were not mentioned, all the possible health concerns of southern hognose snakes fall into this: they can be sick because of poor sanitation and unbalanced diets. To make sure that your pet hognose snake will stay healthy, keep their living spaces clean, and provide them with highly nutritious meals. Also, the moment when you feel like something is wrong, bring your pet to the vet right away.
Handling your pet southern hognose snake can be an enjoyable experience. Handling the snake quite regularly will be able to teach your pet about being docile and calm. If you can, handle your pet snake at least one time a week. But, make sure not to handle the snake immediately and up to 24 hours after a meal. Another period when you should stop handling your southern hognose is when you notice that it is approaching its shedding cycle.
Before you begin handling your pet snake, make sure that you wash your hand thoroughly and make sure that you smell like a human and not like a prey item, like a lizard, rat, or frog. If the snake scents you and mistakes you for another animal, you might get bitten. If you want, you can also wear latex gloves before handling the snake.
When you approach your snake, touch them in their sides and never through their tails and heads. Holding them in their heads or tails will lead them to feel threatened and act quite defensively.
Once you have removed your pet snake from their enclosure, bring it closer to you and use your hands in guiding its most basic actions. Again, try to read its body language and avoid controlling it through its head and tail
Because southern hognose snakes are not really that big in size when compared to other species of snakes, you will find it very easy to provide proper housing to your pet. On its average size, you could place the snake in a 20 gallon or a 30-gallon terrarium made of glass. If you don’t like glass cages, you can also opt for a plastic cage that is two feet wide to fit your snake inside.
When purchasing a cage, the most important thing to consider is that it must be escape-proof. Snakes, including the southern hognose, like to test the limits of their boundaries and think of ways to escape from their cage. This would be most especially true during the time that they are first brought home and placed in the terrarium set-up for the first time. You will see your pet snake crawling around and up the sides of the enclosure, as far as it can reach. Remember, a snake will only need a hole that is as large as its skull to be able to escape its cage.
Whatever you will be using for the top of the enclosure, make sure that you fasten it securely. Better yet, make sure that it has clamps.
For substrates, you can use aspen shavings, cypress mulch, newspaper, or sand to line the bottom of your snake’s enclosure. The need for the installation of this is that southern hognose snakes love to burrow inside their cages and dig around. They mimic their hobbies when in the wild, where they dig through leaves and plant matter just to reach their prey. They used their upturned snouts to dig around things.
One of the most important things for the optimum caring for southern hognose snakes is to make them think that they are still staying in their natural habitat. This will make them more at home and comfortable in the home that you have designed for them.
In the wild, almost all species of snakes spend their time hiding under logs and digging through holes. This is their way to escape predators. To avoid having a stressed snake, you should install hide boxes in its cage. There is no need to worry. You can reuse household items for this like cardboard boxes, shoe boxes, paper towel rolls, plastic containers, flower pots, and ceramics.
For diurnal snakes like the southern hognose, they should be provided with 14 to 16 hours of full-spectrum lighting during summers and springs and 8 to 10 hours of light for autumns and winters. If you can, also provide your snake a UVB lighting source, just in case they do not get enough Vitamin D3 from the food that they eat.
Southern hognose snakes are ectothermic creatures. Basically, this means that they depend on their environment to transfer the warmth into their bodies. Unlike mammals and humans, they do not have means of warming their bodies internally.
As a pet snake owner, you can opt to warm the enclosure from the top of the cage or from the bottom. There are heat tapes, heat pads, or heat mats that you can use under the cage. You can also opt for using heating lamps that you can place under the lid of the enclosure.
For the best temperatures, a range of 75 degrees to 85 degrees Fahrenheit would be perfect for your southern hognose snake. At night, these temperatures can be lowered a bit to allow your snake a little relaxation.
Though southern hognose snakes are used to being in hot climates, the humidity levels that they need are just average ones. The best levels of humidity must be from 30 to 50 percent. But there is an exception to this, during their shedding cycles, humidity must be increased to 60 to 65 percent. To accomplish this, you must use some reptile foggers to boost humidity. If you don’t have the means to get a fogger, you can use other methods like misting your snake using spray bottles.
If you are southern hognose snake has reached their shedding cycle, make sure that you can spray the snake’s entire habitat with warm water aside from misting the snake itself. Make sure that you use warm water or else your snake will feel traumatized.
Since humidity levels in the snake’s enclosure require consistency, it would be great if you can install hygrometers at the side of the cage so that you can have something to measure the humidity levels at all times.
Install a water bowl inside the cage of your hognose snake so that they can drink whenever it wants. You might not see them drinking, but they do this a lot, especially when it is nearing its shedding schedule as it needs a lot of moisture. In terms of which water to use, clean tap water or bottled water are good options. Make sure that you replace the water every two days and clean the bowl thoroughly at least once a week.
To keep your snake healthy and happy, one major thing to consider is cleaning their enclosures. A complete cleaning from top to bottom of the entire cage must be done at least once a month. This involves removing all the substrates, washing all the furniture of the cage, and wiping the entire cage using an antibacterial cleaner.
Additionally, you should also learn how to spot-clean cages or to clean them immediately after they are soiled. If you see some old skin after they shed, or some feces lying around, immediately spot clean these items.
Fun Facts about the Southern Hognose Snake
- When the southern hognose snake feels threatened, it rolls on its back and fakes their death.
- The southern hognose belongs to a group of species, alongside the western and eastern hognose snakes.
- The southern hognose has an upturned snout, and it is also called as a blow snake or a puffer snake.
- The southern hognose has scales that are neutral colored gray, brown, olive, and tan.
- The southern hognose snake has big teeth behind its mouth, which is also known as rear fangs.
- Though the southern hognose snakes often eat toads, they also eat eggs, rodents, and small lizards.
- The southern hognose snake is known for being so intense in its theatrical playing dead that it can actually excrete feces and bleed from its mouth.
- The southern hognose snake does not have a venom gland, but their saliva is toxic, and their bites can still be harmful. To humans, a bite can lead to pain and swelling.
- The usual species that pose a threat to the southern hognose snakes are hawks, indigo snakes, and kingsnakes.
Where Can You Get a Pet Southern Hognose Snake?
If you want to get a pet Southern Hognose Snake, there are a few possible options that you can go with. First, you can go to your local reptile store and buy one. You can also go to reptile shows or expos, or get one through a professional breeder. Some chain pet stores also carry southern hognose snakes, too, if you would be interested.
But, for the best option, go with reputable breeders who already have proven that they can provide healthy and safe snakes. If you transact with just anyone, you might get a southern hognose snake that has some injury or some type of illness. Taking care of a pet hognose snake will be much easier if you receive them in pristine condition.
Before you buy the animal, you should look into the following things.
- The southern hognose snake must appear active and alert. Every once in a while, you will see it flicking out its tongue while looking around and evaluating its surroundings.
- When you touch and grasp the snake, it should feel healthy and strong. It must move around you and not hanging around limply.
- You should also feel if there are weird lumps and bumps in the snake’s body.
- It should also be weighing nicely, not obese, and not malnourished.
How to Care for a Pet Southern Hognose Snake?
So that you can provide your southern hognose snake the proper care, you have to think of this: the key for a healthy snake is regular maintenance. What does that mean? You should regularly do the following tasks: refilling their drinking water, replacing the decorations in their cage, removing dirty substrates and replacing them with new ones, cleaning the furniture in their cage, and spraying the entire cage with antibacterial cleaners.
Schedule your hognose snake care process, so you will not neglect to do something important. A great schedule will look like this:
- Daily cleaning: Spot-cleaning for feces, and using tongs to remove, if any
- Weekly cleaning: Replacing the substrates and beddings in the enclosure
- Bi-weekly cleaning: Cleaning the furniture inside the enclosure
- Monthly cleaning: Removing everything from the snake enclosure and clean both interiors and exteriors
Aside from cleaning, you should also regularly monitor the temperatures inside the living area, as the electric devices that you use might fluctuate or malfunction at any time.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is the southern hognose snake poisonous?
The southern hognose snakes are deemed to be completely harmless to humans. Though they bite, they do not possess venom, and their toxic saliva can cause minor wounds.
How big do southern hognose snakes get?
In general, adult southern hognose snakes can grow from 14 to 40 inches.
Are southern hognose snakes endangered?
The southern hognose snakes are experiencing a huge decline in their numbers. In Florida, North Carolina, it is considered as a species of greatest conservation need. Also, they are seen as a threatened species in Georgia and South Carolina and endangered in Mississipi and Alabama.
Are southern hognose snakes good for beginners?
Hognose snakes are easy to handle and friendly, so they make for great reptile pets.
Can two southern hognose snakes be housed together?
Multiple hognose snakes can be placed in one enclosure together, as long as they have separate feeding spaces, and they will not fight for food.
Do southern hognose snakes bite hurt?
Hognose snake bites do not have poison, but they can still hurt.
How many eggs do southern hognose lay?
A southern hognose snake can lay 8 to 25 eggs in a single clutch.
Do southern hognose snakes burrow?
Southern hognose snakes enjoy spending their time hiding and burrowing under soil or sand.
Are southern hognose snakes easy to take care of?
Southern hognose snakes are one of the most popular snake species to take care of because they are relatively small and also easy to train.
How long can a southern hognose snake go without eating?
A southern hognose snake can survive two to three months without eating, especially when they are hibernating.
What do southern hognose snakes eat?
The diet of a southern hognose snake normally consists of frogs, animal eggs, and small lizards.
How often do southern hognose snakes eat?
Adult hognose snakes are usually fed every 7 to 10 days, but young ones can be fed much more often.
Which countries can I find a southern hognose snake?
Southern hognose snakes are usually found in the United States, but some are seen in Canada and Mexico.