Western Hognose Snake

a close up of a Western Hognose Snake's head

Are you looking for a unique pet that will bring lots of joy and entertainment to your home? Western Hognose Snakes may be the perfect fit! These small, non-venomous snakes are native to North America and make great family pets.

Western Hognose Snakes have a distinct look that sets them apart from other snakes. They have a flattened head and an upturned snout, which is how they got their name. They also have a unique pattern of scales that can range from yellow to brown or gray.

Western Hognose Snakes are docile and calm pets. They can have several different colors and patterns. They have a slightly upturned snout which looks somewhat similar to the nose of a hog. This is how they derive their name “hognose.’ Western Hognose Snakes are a subspecies of the Hognose Snakes.

Western Hognose Snakes are a non venomous snake found over a wide range in North America. Their range includes southern Canada, parts of the Central United States – Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and northern Mexico. The Western Hognose Snakes like to stay in flat areas that have loose sand.

These snakes are small and have low maintenance needs, making them great pets for first-time snake owners. They require the same amount of care that most other small snakes need. The only thing that is different is how they sometimes react when they feel threatened. They like to play dead when they feel threatened!  

They are nonvenomous, and are not aggressive towards humans. Western Hognose Snakes are very shy animals, and will usually avoid contact with people.

Western Hognose Snakes are very quiet and calm, and will rarely bite unless provoked. They are very gentle, and will accept almost anyone as a friend. They are also very easy to handle, and will allow you to hold them without fear. 

They are very easy to care for, and also relatively inexpensive, costing around $200. As with any pet, there are types that are rarer and can cost several times more.

Western Hognose Snakes are a great choice for those looking for an interesting pet that is relatively easy to care for. With proper care and attention, they can make wonderful family pets.

In conclusion, Western Hognose Snakes are a great choice for those looking for an interesting pet that is relatively easy to care for. If you’re looking for a unique pet that will bring lots of joy and entertainment to your home, Western Hognose Snakes may be the perfect fit!

Western HognoseSnake Information

  • Average Length: 1 to 3 feet
  • Average Weight: Up to 2 pounds
  • Snake Type: Colubridae
  • Skin Appearance: Multi-color with square bars and rows that run vertically along the body
  • Skin Colors: Tan, brown, gray, olive, and yellow
  • Grooming Needs: Low
  • Shedding: Once a month
  • Sensitive to Touch: No
  • Biting Tendency: No
  • Tolerance to Heat and Cold: No, They need a warm environment to live.
  • Good Pet: They are small in size and calm, so yes!
  • Safe with Children: Moderate. Their unusual behavior such as sudden hissing may scare a child.
  • Good with Other Pets: No
  • Suitable to live in an Apartment: Yes
  • Good for Less Experienced Pet Owners: Yes
  • Weight Gain: No
  • Health Concerns: respiratory infections, mites, internal parasites, and scale rot.
  • Allergies: None
  • Average Life Span: up to 18 years

Physical Appearance of Western Hognose Snakes

a Western Hognose Snake partially coiled

The Western Hognose Snake is a small and stout-bodied snake. They have an upturned snout with a point on the tip that helps them dig through sandy soil and also helps catch prey.

The top of their body can be one of several colors including, gray, tan, brown, or olive. In addition to colors there are a few different patterns they could also have, square patches, bars, or parallel spots that run along the length of their body. Their bellies typically have a lot of pigmentation solid black, yellow and black and some are just off white. There are several subspecies of Western Hognose that come in different colors and patterns.

Temperament of Western Hognose Snakes

Hognose Snakes are mostly docile, making them easy to handle, but they can also be timid. These snakes are known for a number of defensive displays when they feel threatened. They will flatten their necks or raise their heads so they will look wider and stronger. Sometimes they may also hiss loudly to scare away threats.

In extreme cases, a Hognose Snake may strike, sometimes repeatedly to scare away threats. The good thing is they do not bite and will only strike with their mouths closed. Even after all this if they still feel threatened, the Hognose Snake will play dead to try to fool others.

If you see them doing any of these defensive actions when you are trying to handle them, leave them alone for a while and try to handle them later.

They usually do these defensive displays living in the wild but in captivity they’ll still do most of them. Handling them often from a young age can help your snakes be more comfortable with human handling and less prone to making defensive actions.

a Western Hognose Snake outside and partially coiled

The Western Hognose Snakes are active during the day. Their enclosure should have a lamp installed to simulate daylight.

Unlike most other pet snakes, Western Hognose Snakes rarely attempt to escape. Whatever type of enclosure you have should have a tight lid on top of the tank. A lid they can’t push open will keep your snake from getting out even if it does go exploring.

Their Compatibility with Children

These snakes are harmless and safe to be handled by children. When threatened they may move their head quickly, strike with a closed mouth, or even play dead. While this is harmless, some kids may get scared of seeing them do these defensive moves.

It is very important to have someone who is experienced with your children when they are handing your snake the first few times. If something unexpected does happen, an adult will be around to handle the situation.

It’s important for kids to know how to handle your snake. It is important for children to support the entire body of the snake. Being held correctly will minimize how stressed your snake gets.

Anyone handling your Hognose Snake should wash their hands immediately after they are done handling it. Most snakes are carriers of infectious bacteria like Salmonella which can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain. Washing their hands should prevent anyone that touched the snake from contracting bacterial and fungal diseases from your snake.

Living Space for Western Hognose Snakes

the front part of a Western Hognose Snake

Western Hognose Snakes don’t need a large living enclosure. Most Western Hognose Snakes will only grow to about 3 feet long. They should be comfortable in a 20-gallon tank to live in.

When buying a tank or enclosure for your Hognose, look for one which has a larger floor area than height. These snakes do not climb and mostly like staying on the ground. So the floor area should be big enough for them to move around and stretch.

The tank should be divided into two sections – hot and warm.

Like all snakes they will need a water bowl in their tank. It should be large enough for them to slide through the bowl. It is possible to have this built into the tank, but anything that won’t tip over should be fine. It’s important that their water bowl be cleaned out and refilled every day.

Hognoses love to hide. If there is at least one hiding spot for your snake to hide they will be much happier and less stressed. Hiding spots can be made from a number of different materials like plastic containers, cardboard boxes or even cement.

The substrate used in their enclosure should allow them to burrow. A few inches of sand mixed with reptile safe soil will be perfect to let your snake burrow and hide. If you don’t want to buy soil it’s pretty easy to sterilize soil at home. To sterilize the soil it just needs to be heated in an oven to kill off anything that might be living in it.

Best Climate for Western Hognose Snakes

a Western Hognose Snake with their front half elevated as if they're hunting prey

The temperature inside the hot section of the enclosure should be kept between 85 to 90 degrees. On the warm side the temperature should be around 70 degrees. The temperature variant will allow the snake to move from one section to another and regulate their temperature as needed.

A heat mat can be used to maintain the necessary temperature inside the tank. The heat mat should not cover more than one-third of the overall floor area. By keeping the heat mat to only one-third of the floor you are able to create a heat gradient. If the heat mat is over too far then the entire enclosure will be hot, even the side you wanted warm.

The temperature inside the enclosure should be checked a few times a day. You’ll want thermometers on both the ends of the tank so you can make sure both ends are in the correct range.

For Hognose Snakes, a humidity level of 30 to 50 percent is good. The exact amount will vary slightly among the subspecies. The humidity level should be increased when the snakes are shedding, or about to shed their skin.

To monitor the humidity levels in the enclosure you’ll want to have a hygrometer in both the warm and hot sides. Placing a water bowl inside the warm side of the tank can help maintain the correct humidity levels. If the humidity levels always seem low, spraying the enclosure with water is an easy way to bring it up.

Because these snakes are active during the day, they need lighting that simulates the sun if natural light is not available. The lighting they need is as easy as installing full-spectrum UVB lights. They can be purchased online or at a pet store. By using a timer the lights can be set for 10 – 12 hours of lighting during the day, and kept off at night.

The Attention a Western Hognose Snake Needs

Snakes do not require a lot of attention. We recommend handling them at least a few times a week. The only times they shouldn’t be held is for 5 to 6 hours after feeding them or when they are about to shed their skin.


Mouth rot, or infectious stomatitis, is an infection in a snake’s mouth. Mouth rot is very serious and can cause your snake a great deal of pain, and can eventually lead to their death. Mouth rot is typically caused by an injury to your snake’s mouth, or their enclosure not being kept at the correct conditions.

Symptoms of mouth rot in your snake are:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Blood in your pets mouth or their water bowl
  • Swollen areas in their mouth
  • Weight loss

The first step to fixing the problem is finding out if they injured their mouth on something, or if their enclosure’s conditions are not right. If their mouth is injured you should get them to a vet to have them look at your pets mouth. If the problem is environmental then fix the problems in their enclosure.

No matter what the cause of your snakes’s mouth rot, you’ll still need to take them to your vet because their treatment requires prescription antibiotics. Surgery may be required depending on the severity of the mouth rot. Because this infection kills tissues in your pet’s mouth, areas may need to be removed, including teeth. It’s better to prevent this problem before it happens by keeping your pets’ enclosure at the conditions they need to be happy and healthy.

Respiratory Infections

Respiratory infections are not that uncommon in snakes and reptiles. Especially ones that are kept in enclosures not kept at the correct conditions. Respiratory infections are very contagious, and even if your pet is kept in the best conditions, the infection can be passed to another reptile through touch. That’s why it’s important to wash up between handling reptiles to prevent cross contamination.

Symptoms of a respiratory infection in snakes:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Loud breathing
  • Open mouth breathing
  • Mucus in their mouth
  • Nasal discharge

You’ll want to take your snake into your vet if you see any of the problems related to their breathing or their mouth. A respiratory infection can be serious and can take a long time to get over without treatment.

Treatment for a respiratory infection is typically antibiotics for 10-14 days. It’s very important to administer the medication at the same time each day, and for the full length of the treatment. Not completing the full dose means that your pet could relapse with a more severe infection that’s harder to treat.

To prevent future respiratory infections it’s important to make sure that their enclosure is kept at the best conditions for their health. You’ll also want to make sure to wash up after handling one reptile before handling another to prevent cross contamination.

Scale Rot

Scale rot is typically caused by malnutrition or conditions in their enclosure being too humid or too moist. Oddly enough if the substrate is too dry it can also cause scale rot. Scale rot is not a problem that will appear overnight. It can take a few weeks for it to develop. An early sign of scale rot is small blisters on their body, typically on their belly where they have the most contact with the substrate.

Symptoms of scale rot in snakes are:

  • Discolored skin, especially on their belly
  • Swollen scales
  • Cracked scales
  • Loss of appetite

You’ll want to identify the cause of the scale rot, and take steps to make their enclosure a more healthy environment. Check the temperature and humidity and make sure they’re within the optimal range your snake needs. Make sure their enclosure is clean, and that there is no waste build up anywhere. Check the substrate to make sure that it’s moist but not soaked with water.

If everything above checks out, another cause of scale rot can be if their skin was cut by something in their enclosure. Look for any rough edges, anything that could have cut their skin. You’ll want to remove anything that can cut their skin to prevent future infections.

No matter the cause, it’s a good idea to completely clean their enclosure and replace the substrate. You’ll want to make a judgment call on taking your snake to your vet. Most owners won’t go to the vet unless the scale rot goes beyond their skin. Many snake owners will soak their snakes in a betadine bath (1 to 10 ratio betadine to water) and then follow up the bath with an antimicrobial ointment.

Internal Parasites

Internal parasites aren’t common in most snakes. They are a lot more common in Western Hognose snakes, especially if they’re not captive bred. Western Hognose snakes are more likely to have internal parasites because of their diet. In the wild they are known for eating birds, frogs, lizards and mice. There are a number of ways that they could come into contact with a parasite.

Symptoms of internal parasites in your snake:

  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Increase in the smell of their waste

If you think your snake has an internal parasite you’ll want to collect a fresh sample of their waste to bring into your vet to have it looked at. Fortunately internal parasites are not life threatening, and if you don’t have a fresh sample it’s better to wait a few days. A fresh sample will be better than bringing in an old sample. If your snake has internal parasites your vet will prescribe an oral dewormer.

If you want to prevent them from getting parasites in the future try to buy captive raised food for them. They can still get parasites from them, but it should be a lot less likely than if they’re fed wild caught animals.


Mites are tiny black insects that are parasites. They feed off your snake’s blood, and they can be quite the pain in the butt to get rid of once you have them. Most times your new snake will be caught and sold already having mites, or they’ll get them from another snake at the pet store.

Symptoms that your snake has mites:

  • Long soaks in their water
  • Rubbing on objects in their enclosure
  • Tiny black specs on your snake or objects in their enclosure
  • Tiny black specs on you from handling your snake

We recommend contacting your vet to find out what treatment they recommend for killing mites. Keep in mind that mites don’t tend to stay in one place, and any other snakes or reptiles kept in the same room could be infested with mites as well. Distance between pets is key, just as washing up between handling pets so that you don’t spread mites from pet to pet.

Grooming and Care

A baby Western Hognose Snake may shed every week but an adult will share about once a month. Placing a bowl of water inside the tank is extremely helpful when your snake is shedding. The water bowl should be cleaned daily.

When snakes shed they like to soak themselves in water. Soaking their scales helps them soften the outer layer of their skin. Sometimes your snake will have patches of skin leftover on their body. If you see this it means they are having difficulty shedding their skin. Putting a bowl of lukewarm water in their enclosure and increasing the humidity can make shedding easier. If they still are having problems shedding consult your vet.

The enclosure of a tank of Western Hognose Snake needs a deep cleaning once a month. A bleaching solution of 3 to 5 percent is needed to disinfect everything. Before cleaning anything, place your snake inside a secure container and then remove everything from the tank.

Clean the walls and floors of the tank thoroughly with the bleaching solution. After wiping everything down, wait for a few minutes until everything dries completely. After everything is dry, put everything back in the enclosure, including your snake.

Western Hognose Snakes love mice and other small rodents

For spot cleanings, the tank needs to be checked regularly for poop, and moist substrate. Anything found should be cleaned immediately to keep your snake’s enclosure clean and hygienic.

Feeding A Western Hognose Snake

Hognose Snakes tend to be a little unpredictable when it comes to feeding. Western Hognose Snakes are known for being difficult to feed. They will sometimes refuse to eat the food that you put in their tank.

When they refuse to eat, check to make sure that the temperatures on both sides of their tank are correct. If the temperature is good then make sure that the humidity is also where it should be. If it’s been a while since their tank was cleaned, consider cleaning it. If they still won’t eat, try to feed them a live meal, or make it look like it’s alive.

Young hatchlings should be eating gut-loaded crickets that have been dusted with calcium powder. Gut-loaded insects are raised by serving them nutritious food with the intention of feeding them to other things like snakes or other reptiles.

As the hatchling grows they will eat pinkie mice and eventually larger mice once they become an adult. The mice should be pre-killed and thawed before being given to your snake. Most pet stores will sell frozen mice that can be fed to your snake.

Other than mice they love eating frogs, lizards and birds. Due to the risk of them getting internal parasites it’s best to source these from someone that’s bred them captively to be used as feeder animals.

Young Hognose hatchlings need to be fed two to three times a week while adult snakes should be fed once a week. If your snake is close to shedding their skin they may not be interested in eating anything until after they shed.

A water bowl should also be placed in the warm side of their tank. A water bowl will make sure your snake has water at all times.

Related Questions

Are Western Hognose Snakes Venomous?

There is a lot of debate on this topic. Some reptile experts’ opinion is that their saliva produces a mildly toxic substance that is produced by the Duvernoy’s Gland. This is not a venomous gland and only a modified saliva gland.

Their saliva does not contain cytotoxins, neurotoxins, or hemotoxins. Though this may be harmful to some prey in the wild, it is completely safe for humans. These snakes don’t bite and the rare times they do, it’s not considered dangerous for humans.

What is the Difference Between Male and Female Western Hognose Snakes?

The females are longer and can grow up to 3 feet long. The males are smaller and will usually only get to about 2 feet long. Their length makes it easy to differentiate between male and female Hognose Snakes. The other physical features are the same for both.

How does the Western Hognose Snake Play Dead?

Western Hognose Snakes do this by moving their head from side to side and then flipping over. They will lie motionless with the mouth open and tongue out. The snake will sometimes release a foul smell from their anal glands.

If you try to flip them in this condition they will simply roll back over and resume their death pose. If you’ve ever seen this you will understand why it can be amusing to watch.

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Maryna is an animal expert that has had dozens of animals in her life over the years. She has never found an animal that she didn't love immediately. It seems like every year she finds kittens that have been abandoned by their mom and she nurses them to health and finds homes for them. She contributes her vast knowledge about animals and family pets to our website and we're forever grateful to have her working with us. She's also an amazing graphics designer and has designed all of the social media images that we use across all platforms.