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Western Hognose Snake

Heterodon nasicus

Family:

Colubridae, the colubrid family.

Conservation Status:

IUCN Least Concern.

Distribution:

Southern Canada to northern Mexico, from Colorado and Wyoming in the west to Illinois in the east.

Habitat:

Shortgrass prairie, dry, sandy areas and dry rocky lands.

Factoid:

If they cannot frighten off an intruder, they will regurgitate their last meal, roll onto their back, and play dead. Even though docile, their mild venom can cause some swelling and discomfort to anyone bitten.

These snakes get their name from their sharply up-turned snouts. They range from gray to light yellow to brown, with dark brown blotches down the back and smaller ones on the sides. Their bellies have black patches in a checkered pattern.

They are adapted for eating frogs and toads but also eat small rodents, birds, lizards, snakes and reptile eggs. They have enlarged back teeth adapted for puncturing toads that inflate and their shovel-like snouts are used to dig frogs and toads from their burrows.

They are preyed on by larger animals and when threatened, inflate their bodies to make themselves look larger, but rarely bite in defense. They may strike at intruders but only as a bluff.

Breeding usually takes place in May. In July, females lay about 9 eggs – but sometimes many as 23 – in nests a few inches below the soil surface. Incubation takes 2 months, and the young get no parental care.

They hibernate from September to March and are solitary except during the mating season.

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