Eastern Hog-nosed Snake (Heterodon platirhinos)
Description: A thick-bodied, slow-moving snake with a flattened, upturned "nose." Color is variable some have dark spots and blotches on a yellow, orange, or brown background, but other specimens are solid black, brown, or olive with little or no visible pattern. Easily identified by defensive behavior (see below). Adult length: 20 to 40 inches.
Photos © Jim Harding
Habitat and Habits: A snake of open, sandy woodlands - found in the wooded dunes of western Michigan. The upturned snout is used to burrow after toads, a favorite food. When threatened, hognose snakes puff up with air, flatten their necks and bodies, and hiss loudly. (This has led to local names like "puff adder" or "hissing viper.") If this act is unsuccessful, they will writhe about, excrete a foul smelling musk, and then turn over with mouth agape and lie still, as though dead. Despite this intimidating behavior, Hog-nosed snakes are harmless to humans.
Reproduction: Female Hog-nosed Snakes lay from 4 to over 50 eggs in early summer, usually in an underground burrow. The young snakes hatch out about 60 days later, and are usually grayish with black blotches. Adult coloration appears as they mature. The young spread their necks and hiss immediately upon hatching.
Range and Status: Though recorded from most of the Lower Peninsula and the southern tip of the Upper Peninsula, Hog-nosed Snakes are most common in the western and northern LP. Their numbers have declined in many places, in part due to persecution by humans who mistakenly believe they are dangerous.
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