Hognose Snake – Species Profile, Facts, And Care Guide

Few reptile pets are as distinctive as the hognose snake. With their almost toy-like appearance, it’s easy to see why these docile snakes are adored by many people. Still, they can pose some questions about care, especially if you’re new to owning a pet snake.

What Is A Hognose Snake?

In snake lingo, the term ‘hognose snake’ refers to a variety of species that share the same characteristic, namely their upturned hoglike noses. Names for some species of snakes are derived from their habitats, such as the Eastern hognose snake and the Mexican hognose snake. There are species whose names describe their characteristics, such as the Tricolor hognose snake or the Speckled hognose snake. Western, Eastern, and Southern hognose snakes are the most common species of snake found as pets (and therefore the focus of this article).

What Are The Characteristics of A Hognose Snake?

Hognose snakes are defined by their wide heads with an upturned nose, as their name suggests. While searching for food, the shovel-like shape of its head enables it to dig in sand or soil. Moreover, even among species of the same genus, there may be differences in color and scale pattern. Females tend to grow larger than males, however, and most will be two to three feet long as adults.


SpeciesHatchling SizeAdult Male SizeAdult Female Size
Western Hognose Snake5 to 9 inches    14 to 24 inches28 to 36 inches
Eastern Hognose Snake6½ to 8 inches  17 to 24 inches28 to 36 inches
Southern Hognose Snake6 to 7 inches13 to 15 inches18 to 22 inches
Hognose snake size chart at a glance

Hognose Snake Live For How Long?

A hognose snake’s average lifespan is between five and nine years, but the length of life can vary very much from species to species. Compared to Western hognose snakes, Western hognose snakes have a longer life expectancy and can live as long as 20 years in captivity.

Is The Hognose Hnake Venomous?

Snakes belonging to this genus are generally considered non-venomous, and most of their varieties are considered harmless. Although hognose snakes are capable of producing mild venom, this only hurts small animals like mice and toads. There is still a small amount of venom that is capable of killing a human, even in products such as Madagascar hognose snakes.

Taking Care of Hognose Snakes

Image source: Heather Paul/flickr

Young and new owners will find that they are well suited to this animal because they remain a manageable size, they only need a 3-foot space to house them for life and they are one of the least aggressive snakes in the pet trade.


Hognose snake as pet reacts to threats by hissing, flattening their necks, and lifting their heads off the ground like cobras. The Heterodon can sometimes appear to strike, but rarely bites are inflicted. Because of this behavior, they are called “puff adders” or “blowing adders” as well as “flatheads”, “spread heads”, “spreading adders” or “hissing adders”. Heterodon’s common name, “puff adder,” is incompatible with established usage. Bitis arietans, an unrelated, dangerously venomous African snake species, is known as the “puff adder” because its neck does not flatten when threatened.

Heterodon species may roll onto their backs and play dead if these displays do not deter a predator, sometimes even emitting a foul musk and droppings from their cloaca (in liquid form) while letting their tongues hang out. As if they were truly dead, they will often roll back when rolled upright while in this state. Snakes, even when appearing dead, are known to watch the threat that caused the death pose. It is more likely that a snake will ‘resurrect’ if the threat doesn’t look at it, rather than looking at it.

Its timid nature causes them to burrow into leaves, sand, and other hiding places to escape predators.


Since they are originally from warm environments, hognose snakes face difficulties in the humid climate in the U.S. To protect your snake against both of these factors, we recommend you keep it in a wooden cage. Temperature gradients can be enforced if an enclosure with a minimum of 3x2x2ft and large front vents is chosen.

Heat and moisture should be lost from one side of the enclosure to the other while maintaining a constant temperature within the basking spot.

The Western hognose snake, when young, can sometimes appear shy. In addition to the full-size enclosure, we will provide more decorations to ensure the temperature gradient is correct to start with.

Lighting and Temperature

For western hognose snakes, heat is important especially for digestion, for egg development, and for providing seasonal breeding cues when combined with light.  A pet’s health can be adversely affected if it’s not kept at the proper temperature.

Spring and summer are the best times to provide full-spectrum lighting, while autumn should have eight to ten hours of lighting. The Zoo Med Repticare Day Night Reptile Timer will be able to measure your Western hognose’s photoperiod among a range of wide-spectrum lighting products available in local pet retail outlets.

The Zilla Heat Pad, for example, is designed to be used exclusively with most types of aquariums and can be found at pet stores. The hognose can bask in a hot spot kept at around 90 degrees Fahrenheit using one of these. To ensure the snake can escape from the heat, make sure the heater you use corresponds to the size of the enclosure so that heat will be evenly distributed. Never use medical heat pads that can be purchased at pharmacies. There is the possibility that these are adjustable, however, they can be potential fire hazards or cause overheating in the enclosure. You also need to avoid hot rocks. Cooling can be managed by keeping the inside of the enclosure in the 70s. This controller regulates the temperature of this heat pad.

The rack system is used by a lot of breeders of Western hognose snakes. Racks are most commonly heated using a programmable thermostat or rheostat combined with heat tape. You can purchase these at reptile specialty stores or online. It can be easily managed and is a very good method for heating enclosures on racks since it is normally affixed to the shelving.

Diet & Feeding

Toads and frogs are the primary food source of hognose snakes, but they can also feed on other items. The majority of species eat lizards, salamanders, worms, insects, birds, small mammals, and even worms and worm eggs

Some Western hognoses may come at you with open mouths, as if they were wanting to say, “Feed me! It is best to use tongs, forceps, or hemostats when handling long snakes, such as Western hognoses. They can be quick and will commonly pounce on food from all angles rather than directly at it.

One or two times a week, feed the snake an appropriately sized meal, meaning something with the same diameter as the snake’s head. There should be a noticeable lump once it has been swallowed, but not one that remains visible after 24 hours. Among the prey items a Western hognose consume in the wild are small rodents, lizards, amphibians, and eggs of ground-nesting animals. Mice are extremely nutritious for pets in a frozen or pre-killed form. It is more likely for hognose snakes to digest frozen/thawed rodents, as after they’ve been partially broken down at the cellular level, they are easier for them to digest. Also, because the mice were pre-killed, there was no way for a live Western hognose to get injured.

Western hognose hatchlings can be difficult to get to accept mice. Pinky mice can be smelled with canned tuna or salmon juice to encourage them to consume them. Snakes typically stop using this method after a short time, and it’s easy for humans to wean them away from it. Alternatively, you can “brain” a pinky, although this is somewhat unnerving. In the experiment, a small pinhole is drilled into the skull of a frozen pinky, and a small amount of brain matter is squeezed out to be applied to the mouse’s nose.

For Western hognoses, toads should not be used as scenting mediums. Western hognoses are notoriously hard to wean off toad-scented mice, and using toads can introduce the snakes to dangerous parasites. Toads are available at all times, so many snakes find them difficult to catch.

Diurnal foragers, Heterodon normally consumes their prey alive without any constriction or body pinning, relying primarily on their jaws to subdue them.

Rodents and lizards make up the bulk of the diet of most of the pet hognose snake species. A rare exception is Heterodon platirhinos, which eat toads, eggs, insects, as well as other items.

Handling Tips for Your Pet Hognose Snake

After you bring your new pet home, you shouldn’t handle it for about two weeks. Getting comfortable in a new environment gives the snake a chance to settle in.

The hognose is ready for handling once it has eaten regularly. Don’t handle the snake for more than five minutes the first few times; this will “reward” positive behavior. Once your hognose can be handled for ten minutes, then gradually increase that time to thirty minutes. No more than one hour should be spent handling your hognose.

Handle your hognose no more than once a day, but no less than 1-2 times per week, so that it becomes comfortable with human contact. In the short run, it’s good exercise, but more often can stress out hognose, especially if it’s young.

For Easterns and Southerns, handling sessions should be limited to once a week as they can be more defensive/flighty than Westerns.


You may breed a male and a female if you keep them together. Breeding need not be encouraged. Natural processes will occur as long as the conditions are good and they are healthy. Before introducing the pair, consider whether you wish for this to happen. When you incubate the eggs, what will happen to the babies?

It is essential for a gravid female to have access to a nesting box while she is laying her eggs. She should be able to turn around completely inside the box. We use a soil mix inside the nesting box that is kept humid enough to maintain its shape without becoming saturated with water. Our SpiderLife Pro rep mix works perfectly for this.

A few days after they are laid, the eggs should be placed in 84oF incubators. To trap moisture around the eggs, we incubate them in sealed boxes on moist substrates (such as Hatchrite). After 60 days, the first babies to emerge will speed up the hatching process for the remainder of the eggs.


As with most pets, hognose snakes need a clean environment to flourish. The team recommends that every day you spot clean and that you clean your house once every four weeks or so. It is possible to spot clean and monitor the bio-active enclosure if you keep the snake in one. Changing the bedding a few times per year may still be a good idea.

In order to clean your enclosure, you should remove all the decorations and bedding as well as your pet hognose snake. Using a reptile-safe disinfectant after the enclosure has been cleared is necessary. Instructions are usually provided on the packaging of disinfectants. Since these generally work quickly, they should only be left for a few seconds. A paper towel can be used to wipe away the disinfectant from the surfaces after it has completed its task. The enclosure might need to be cleaned a second time in some cases in order to make sure it is properly cleaned.

In a similar manner, you can also clean decorations by spraying them with disinfectant and rinsing them thoroughly with water, then putting them back into the enclosure. The snake should be returned to the vivarium during the day to ensure that the basking lamps are turned off at least an hour before the snake spends the night at the vivarium.

Common Health and Behavior Problems of Pet Hognose Snake

Although pet hognose snakes are timid, they are a hardy breed that rarely gets sick. Nevertheless, you should watch out for these diseases.

It is believed that improper humidity is typically the cause of pet hognose snake respiratory infections, which manifest as wheezing, drooling, and general lethargy.2 Hognose snake respiratory infections can be prevented by removing as much moisture from the environment as possible.

An infection called infectious stomatitis also affects snakes. These are classic signs of mouth rot: swelling and bubbly saliva around the snake’s mouth. If the condition goes untreated, your snake could develop an infection and lose its teeth.

Additionally, pet Hognose snakes can suffer from fungal infections that result in skin discoloration and problems with shedding. Veterinarians who specialize in reptiles should treat any of these conditions.

Choosing Your Hognose Snake As Pet

To ensure a healthy hognose snake pet, you’ll need to purchase a captive-bred snake from a reputable breeder or rescue organization. Ask the snake what it has been eating and how often it eats, as well as when the snake was the last eating and defecating. Based on the snake’s species and age, expect to pay between $100 and $500.

If you want an adult snake, choose it and if you want a hatchling, choose it. It might be best to choose a hatchling if you have limited snake experience. This means it has probably been captive-bred and will be easy for you to handle from a young age.

It should not have any visible ribs or kinks when it is stretched to its full length, and its ribs should not be visible. Before taking your furry friend home, make sure you examine its skin for ticks and mites.

Final Thoughts

The hognose snake is an interesting reptile that makes for a great first pet. They are non-venomous, and despite their intimidating appearance, are quite gentle. All over the world, people keep this species as pets, but they are native to North America where they can be found in the US and Canada. For such a unique species, there is a surprising lack of information on what they need in order to thrive in captivity.

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