Hognose Snakes: The Complete Care Guide & Must Know Facts

Hognose is a term used to describe colubrid snakes which have upturned snouts.

The Hognose genera consist of three types of snakes and they all use their snouts to burrow and dig sandy soils.

Hognose snakes have varying color patterns which range from shades of reds, browns, oranges, black, and greens depending on their locality.

The Types of Hognose Snakes Available As Pets

These harmless snakes exist in three different types and multiple morphs. All hognoses have unique and noticeable upturned snouts with wide, flattened head. They come in a wide range of color including splotches of black, red, orange, green, brown, and tan. The three varieties are:

Western Hognose Snake

It’s mainly found in northern Mexico, the United States, and parts of southern Canada. Western hognoses have pointed, pig-like snouts with dark patterns which line their yellowish or pale brown bodies. This type of hognose is frequent in regions that have gravel-like or sandy soils. Besides that, they also thrive in grasslands, floodplains along rivers, prairies, semi-deserts as well as semi-agricultural regions.

Western hognose snakes are non-venomous but they have irritating saliva which may result in localized itching or swellings. When they are held in captivity, these hognose snake variety can breed and morph into 52 different colors. Mature western hogs usually copulate around February and March.

Eastern Hognose Snake

It is also known as the deaf or spreading adder. This hognose species is endemic to North America and can be found in states such as Texas, Florida, and New Hampshire. Eastern hogs have thicker bodies and wider necks than other hognoses. They also have varying colors which range from tan to yellow, reddish to gray. Some of them are also completely black. Additionally, their skin color pattern can be pattern-less, blotched, or checkered. One thing that stands out in Eastern hogs is that their tail undersides are usually lighter compared to the belly.

Eastern hogs have a specific type of dietary needs hence they are not easily available like other hognoses. They don’t like feeding on rodents not unless they are combined with amphibians. They normally start mating around April or May. These hognoses are non-venomous but some people may suffer from allergic reactions which include skin irritation and swellings.

Southern Hognose Snake

This is a hognose species that is endemic to the southeastern parts of the US. They can be found in Mississippi, Florida to North Carolina. Southern hogs have sharply upturned stouts with wide necks. Besides that, they also have multiple rows of dorsal scales along the midsection area.

Southern hogs have tan-like and grayish colors alongside their black blotches. The color pattern found along the dorsal area may consist of alternating small blotches. Juvenile southern hogs have darker bellies compared to the underside of their tails. However, the whole underside will become pale white as the snakes continue to grow. Southern hognose snakes are oviparous. Mature adults usually mate between April and August. Compared to the Eastern and Western hognoses, southern hognoses have the longest mating season.

Hognose Snake Morphs

These quirky snakes have a dramatic nature of always playing dead when they are under attack. Hognose snakes can be bred to create adorable beautiful colors i.e. morphs. Some of the most popular hognose morphs include:

Anerythristic Hognose

It is a beautiful western hognose morph. Anerythristic morph entails a mixture of whites and greys. The snake is also covered with grey blotches which are darker and outline the upper part of the body.

The Super Conda Morph

This is a unique version of the anaconda color morph. Super Conda is a morph which normally leaves the hognose snake with a pattern-less body. The snake can have a creamy yellow, creamy white, or plain brown color with some few color markings on the head.

Yellow Albino

This is another classic morph among hognoses. Yellow Albino involves a combination of yellow and creamy pastels alongside darker mustard blotches which cover the whole body. This color morph is normally popular with western hognoses.

The Classic T-Albino

This morph is the most common among hognoses. The T-Albino morph is available in multiple shades from pale yellow to extreme red.

Albino SuperConda

It has some resemblance with the super conda morph. Well, this is because it’s an albino version of it. It is characterized with distinct color markings on the head and blotch-free body. Albino SuperConda morph has the usual albino color, some creamy whites, yellow pastels or pink-like orange markings. This snake usually has stunning pink eyes.

Snow Hognose

This is a white morph which comes with the usual hognose blotches. Snow morph has white shades with beautiful undertones of yellows and pinks. This snake is usually beautiful because it has contrasting bright red eyes.

Axanthics

It involves clean blues, whites, and greys. The hognose usually lacks the yellow and red color pigments.

Can You Breed Hognose Snakes?

Although hognose snakes are naturally found in the wild, you can breed them. Their small size, a mild level of temperament, and highly adaptable nature make them good for breeding.

How Much Do They Cost

Hognoses are the most sought-after snake species right now. This is because they are harmless to humans, have a small size, and they are cute. Because they are sold by different reptile breeders, they have a wide price range depending on age and type. Hognoses cost between $50 -150. However, albinos usually cost more because they are rare and more beautiful.

Make sure that you make your purchases from a reputable seller. Additionally, enquire from the seller what the snake has been eating, its age, how often it eats and defecates etc. A reputable breeder will answer all your questions, offer breeding advice including how to deal with health concerns.

Are They Venomous?

These reptiles are mildly venomous. Hogs are not constrictors but they have rear fangs which contain some venom that helps them to tackle small preys such as toads. However, this venom is not toxic to human beings and as a matter of fact, they rarely bite the captors.

There is still some ongoing debate on whether hogs should be classified as poisonous snakes because they contain mild venom. They technically secrete venom that’s harmless to humans but lethal when they strike small preys. Some experts think that this snake breed should be in the same class as cobras and rattlesnakes.

What Type Of Environment Do They Need?

These snakes have snouts which are used as shovels. The snouts are used to dig into the ground and burrow compost when they are in the wild. However, if they are kept as pets, a hognose snake needs an environment that’s filled with a few inches of sand. Note that the sand can also be mixed with another type of reptile-safe material or soil for better burrowing.

Because they don’t get so big, a medium-sized cage is good for them. Some of the accessories that you need in the enclosure include a hide box and large water dish which the snake can comfortably climb into. To make the pet’s environment more conducive, some owners may add full spectrum ultra-violet lights although there are diurnal animals.

Temperatures

Hognose snakes are cold-blooded animals hence they need varying temperatures to bask and cool down. So, a 70 degree-Fahrenheit is good for cooling while a temperature range of 85-90 degrees-Fahrenheit is good for basking. To achieve this, use bulbs with different types of watts and heights. Outlined below are the best temperature range each type of hognose snake.

Western Hognose Snakes

  • Basking: 90-95 degrees-Fahrenheit
  • Mid-range: 74-84 degrees-Fahrenheit
  • Night time: not less than 70 degrees-Fahrenheit

Southern and Eastern Hognose Snakes

  • Basking: 84-88 degrees-Fahrenheit
  • Mid-range: 74-84 degrees-Fahrenheit
  • Night time: not less than 70 degrees-Fahrenheit

Humidity

Western hognose snakes thrive in relatively dry conditions. They need a minimum humid level of 30 percent and a maximum of 50 percent. Southern and Eastern hognose snakes normally need a slightly higher level of humidity i.e. 50 to 60 percent. Putting a large dish of water in your pet’s cage will produce the required humidity levels.

Note: the bowl of water should be kept on the unheated side of the cage in order to minimize chances of excess humidity.

Cage Substrates

The material that lines the lower side of the snake’s cage is known as the substrate or bedding. A pet owner can use aspen shavings, cypress mulch, newspapers, and sand. Regardless of the type of Hognose snake that you want to pet, all of them love to burrow and dig in search of prey. So, ensure that the cage contains bedding materials that are good for burrowing.

Hiding Areas

The only way you can effectively pet a hognose snake is by creating a duplicate environment to its natural habitat. Apart from the substrates, you also need to create some hiding places in its enclosure. While they are in the wild, hognose snakes usually spend a lot of time hiding in holes or behind obstacles. This is a surviving tactic so as to avoid predators. To aid its natural tendencies, you can use various types of household items to make hiding areas e.g. furniture

Climbing Branches

All types of hognose snakes are terrestrial in their natural habitat. As a result, they spend most of their time moving on the ground. But to create a versatile environment, you can add some driftwood or climbing branches. Although they aren’t considered environmental necessities, it is good to experiment with different things in order to determine what your pet enjoys.

Water Bowl

Snakes prefer drinking water when nobody is around. So, make sure that you leave a water bowl in its enclosure. Put lots of water during the shedding season because they need more moisture to hydrate the skin and enhance shedding. Clean tap water is just good. You don’t need a water conditioner or bottled water as some breeders may suggest.

Caring for a Hognose Snake

The key component of hognose snake’s care is simply regular maintenance. This involves the removal of dirty substrates, cleaning the furniture, replacing the climbing materials, refilling water etc. The hiding materials, as well as the snake’s enclosure, need to be wiped and sprayed with antibacterial cleaners.

The care process can be done under different schedules. You can do a light cleaning of the habitat once a week and thorough cleaning monthly. Leaving the enclosure with dirt can result in an unsanitary environment with a terrible smell.

  • Daily Cleaning: use tongs to remove all feces
  • Weekly cleaning: replace the substrates or beddings
  • Bi-weekly cleaning: clean the furniture as well as the water bowl after every two weeks
  • Monthly cleaning: remove everything from the snake’s enclosure and use a solution with 10 percent bleach to spritz the interior.

Another part of hognose snake’s care is monitoring the temperature. Regularly monitor the cage’s temperature because electrical devices can fail at any time. You can use thermometers to make temperature monitoring easier. Besides that, you can use a “temperature gun” to increase the level of the enclosure’s temperature.

A care aspect which most pet owners don’t know when dealing with reptiles is handling. Make it a habit to handle your snake from time to time because this helps them to become calm and they’ll be docile as time goes by. However, avoid doing it after meals or when the snake is in the shed cycle. During this period, reptiles are usually very irritable. Besides that, they have poor vision and they might confuse handling as an attack because their eyes are covered with an opaque lens.

Note: handling your pet within 24-48 hours after feeding may cause them to regurgitate.

Enclosure Guidelines

According to conventional guidelines, these reptiles need an enclosure with one square feet length and width at minimum. But the right measurements usually depend on the snake’s age and size. For instance,

  • Hatchlings less than 6 inches should be housed in 5-gallon enclosures are an equivalent
  • Juveniles should be housed in 10-gallon enclosures or an equivalent
  • Adult males need a 20-gallon enclosure or more
  • Adult females need a 40-gallon enclosure or more.

Best Types of Hognose Enclosures

This breed of snake can be housed in various types of enclosures which include:

  1. Plastic Enclosures: most snake owners prefer plastic or PVC enclosures because they are made of durable and lightweight materials. Besides that, most plastic enclosures have front-opening for convenient access. Although they are expensive compared to other types of enclosures, a plastic enclosure is a worthwhile investment and can be used for years.
  2. Glass enclosures: they are among the most common. Like plastic, they also have front-openings. However, they are not popular with pet owners because glass isn’t effective in holding heat. Besides that, the clear sides usually subject these reptiles to lots of stress and anxiety.
  3. Wood enclosures: They work perfectly with these pet reptiles. However, a wood enclosure needs to be placed in a dry and less humid environment because it can easily crumble as a result of wood rot or molds. Wood enclosures are convenient because they have front openings for easier access.

Although hognoses are not territorial, they often live solitary lives in the wild. The only time they seek company is during the mating season. Generally, they don’t stay together in groups or seek company. So, it is not healthy for you to keep more than one snake pet in an enclosure.

Note: do not place your snake pet in an enclosure which contains cedar. This is a toxic material to reptiles. Although gravel might look appealing, it promotes bacterial growth because it’s nonabsorbent.

Do Hognose Snakes Make Good Pets?

These reptiles are quirky and timid pets. They are not easy to feed but fairly calm if they are handled regularly. Hognose snakes are beautiful reptiles which make interesting pets. Furthermore, they are small and low-maintenance snakes which are active during the day only. Often times, you will find them burrowing in sandy soils or hiding behind tiny spaces.

Hognose snakes are friendly with a mild level of temperament. When they are threatened, they try to deter the predator using various tactics. Sometimes they can flatten the neck & then raise it up, just like a cobra. However, they rarely bite their attackers hence the “puff adder” nickname. If they are too scared, they will play dead. A hognose snake will roll over, expose its belly in an upward position and stick its tongue out in order to trick the predator.

How Big Do They Grow?

Generally, Hognoses are small compared to other breeds of snakes. They have stout bodies hence they can’t achieve massive length even after they reach maturity. The size usually depends on the type of species. Southern hognose snakes have the smallest average size while the eastern species have the largest average size.

  • Western hogs: They are heavy-bodied hognoses which can reach a maximum length of 60 cm or 2 feet.
  • Eastern hogs: They are the largest types of hognoses and have an average length of 71 cm. However, those that are found in sandy soils can reach a maximum length of 116 cm.
  • Southern hogs: being the smallest hognose snakes, they have an average length of 61 cm. They are also heavy-bodied.

Female hognose snakes tend to grow larger compared to males. The general size of all hognose snakes which are kept as pets usually drops compared to those that live in the wild. Most species which are put in enclosures measure less than 2 feet. These reptiles have a lifespan of 8-10 years.

What Do They Eat?

Just like other reptiles, hognose snakes are 100 percent carnivorous. The type of food which a hognose snake feeds on depends on its age. If it is still very young, then you can feed it pinkies. Give your pet Fuzzies and hoppers once it has grown.

  • Pinkies: they are newborn mice. A pinky weighs between1 to 3 grams. They have high amounts of protein and they lack fur.
  • Fuzzies: these are baby mice which are slightly older. They have started growing fur and weigh between 3 to 5 grams.
  • Hoppers: they are mice which are not fully grown but have organs which are fully formed. Hoppers weigh between 5 to 10g.

Hognose snakes are not like other ball pythons which heavily depend on warmth and scent to locate or identify the prey. These reptiles simply rely on scent. However, it has been observed that they eat better preys which are still warm. They are also more visually-dependent compared to other snakes.

This means that you need to simulate something that resembles a life-like movement when you are feeding them mice. Well, you can just wiggle the prey near its face and it will strike. Because they may strike from any direction, use tongs which have silicone tips. Besides that, you can use tweezers.

Note: when feeding your pet, refrain from using your hands because you risk being bitten. Although this won’t cause a serious health issue because Hognose snakes are not dangerous, the feeling isn’t pleasant.

Adding Food Variety to Your Snake’s Diet

Western, southern, and eastern hognoses which are found in the wild feed heavily on toads, other snakes, mammals, reptile eggs, lizards, birds, frogs, and salamanders. They occasionally feed on insects as well. While they are in cages, they can be conditioned to feed on rodents. But you can add variety to your snake’s diet by feeding it non-rodent meals such as:

  • Cane toads
  • Cuban tree frogs
  • Gray tree frogs
  • Axolotls
  • gecko tails
  • Quail eggs
  • African-clawed frogs
  • Red-back salamanders
  • Frozen or thawed anoles

Give your pet amphibians with a lot of caution. This is because some harvesting areas may be exposed to harmful herbicides or pesticides and you can end up poisoning your snake. Harvesting wild amphibians should be done in natural woodsy areas. And if you are worried that your pet may end getting affected by parasites, freeze the amphibians before feeding your snake. You can occasionally give it some cooked eggs or cut meats as a form of treat.

Overall, the size of prey which your pet feeds on depends on whether or not your snake can swallow as well as digest it. Take a look at the dinner’s width. Generally, it shouldn’t be thicker than the widest section of your pet’s body. Giving your snake a prey that’s so large can cause regurgitation.

Besides that, it can lead to seizures, gut impactions, partial paralysis, and sometimes even death. Do not feed your young pet an adult rat. If the prey is frozen, completely thaw it before you offer it to your pet. Place the prey in a bucket of warm water for about one hour or so. Thereafter, dry it and then feed it your pet. If the snake refuses to feed on the frozen prey, try wiggling it to stimulate its captive senses.

Benefits of Frozen and Pre-Killed Prey over Live Dinners

  • Live prey can be highly active for young underdeveloped snakes
  • Live dinners can also bite back which may cause disfigures including lacerations. These attacks may affect your pet psychologically and they might be afraid to feed on live preys again.
  • Frozen pre-killed dinners can last for months compared to live food. Simply place the offerings in the freezer and slightly warm them if you want to feed your pet. However, do not use a microwave to do this.

The Feeding Schedule

The feeding frequency depends on the age of your pet. If you bought a baby snake, wait until it’s around two or three weeks old before you can think of feeding it. Once your pet has reached this stage, you can feed it twice a week. If you feed your pet more frequently, it will grow faster.

You will also notice that your pet will not be eating more frequently as they grow older. The golden rule still applies here: do not handle your pet for at least 24 hours after you have fed it. You can create a different feeding enclosure if you want to keep your pet’s main habitat clean. However, this isn’t necessary if you have one snake.

Do They Suffer From Any Common Diseases?

Hognoses are termed as hardy snake breeds but they can still get sick. Hognose snakes are just like other reptiles hence they are highly susceptible to respiratory diseases. They might show symptoms of drooling, wheezing, and sometimes general lethargy. These respiratory problems are often caused by improper humid environments and that’s why some pets usually have recurrent respiratory problems.

Besides that, you should watch out for stomatitis or mouth rot. If your pet is showing signs of inflammations around the mouth or has saliva bubbles, it might have mouth rot. This condition is usually very painful and if left untreated, it can cause serious infections which may result in your pet’s teeth falling out.

These reptiles are also susceptible to fungal infections which may result in skin discolorations and other problems. In case you notice any of the above-mentioned symptoms, seek the advice of a veterinarian.

Most illnesses which affect hognose snakes are caused by poor sanitation and feeding. Ensure that you feed your pet highly nutritious meals and keep the enclosure clean. A damp and filthy environment will affect its scales and the snake will end up with reddened scutes. Treatment options of hognose snakes include topical and injectable antibiotics.

Body Language and Handling Tips

For starters, do not try to handle a hog snake for two weeks after taking it home. Give your pet the opportunity to settle and adapt to the new environment. Once you start feeding it regularly, you can start handling it. Initially, the handling period should be brief and not more than five minutes. During all the handing sessions, make sure that the snake is calm before you can return it to the enclosure. Gradually work your way up to increase the handling period. However, make sure that no session exceeds an hour.

For comfort and great interaction, limit the handling to twice weekly and not more than one time in a day. This is mostly applicable to western hognoses. Southerners and Easterners are usually more aggressive and defensive, so your handling sessions should be limited to once weekly.

The Handling Process

First, wash your hands to ensure that you smell like a human being. If your hands smell like a mouse or toad, you risk getting bitten. You can also wear gloves. Always approach from the sides and not the head or tail. Don’t try to restrain its head or grab it by the tail because they will end up getting stressed and defensive.

Once you have removed the snake outside its enclosure, bring it close to your body and use your hands to guide its general movements. Do not let it face you and refrain from touching its head during the initial stages.

Hognose snakes have body language and they can communicate by hissing loudly, puffing up, or flattening the body. All these are defense mechanisms especially if they come across potential predators. They can also produce a foul smell or excrete smelly feces as a way to ward off a threat. These snakes are very dramatic. So, in some instances, they may choose to play dead by releasing violent spams, lolling the tongue out, and rolling on their backs.

Choosing Your Hognose Snake

The type and size of the hognose snake that you will choose depending on your preferences. If, for instance, you are a first-timer with no prior experience, then it’s advisable that you choose a hatchling because you will be able to develop an affinity to it while it is still very young. Besides that, you will be sure that it’s a captive hognose breed and have a better knowledge of its age. If you want a bigger pet, make sure that it is healthy. Its ribs should be visible. In addition to that, the snake should not have any kind of visible kinks when it’s fully stretched. Check its skin for ticks or mites before you take it home.

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