Western Hognose Snake

The Western Hognose Snake is a recognized subspecies of Hognose Snakes. They get their name from slightly upturned snouts, similar to that of hogs. In the wild.

They can be found in North America in an area that ranges from Southern Canada to Northern Mexico. Not surprisingly, their preferred living areas are flat and sandy. This is a sturdy snake that can live up to 20 years in captivity.

This is a small snake that has relatively low maintenance needs, although they can be picky eaters. Nevertheless, first-time snake owners with families will enjoy their company. An unusual habit of this type of snake is to play dead when threatened. Some will simultaneously emit a foul smell and hiss to dissuade predators.

Before purchasing your snake, make sure that it is legal to do so in your area. As this type of snake is not as popular as most, it may be difficult to find, but when you do find one for purchase, you will be sure to reap many hours of enjoyment through caring for it.


Western Hognose Snake 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
  • Good 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
  • Suitable for First-Time Pet Owners: Yes
  • Weight Gain: No
  • Health Concerns: They tend to have respiratory infections, mites, internal parasites, and scale rot.
  • Allergies: None
  • Average Life Span: up to 18 years

Physical Appearance of Western Hognose Snakes

The Western Hognose Snake is a small and stout-bodied snake. They have a pointed and upturned snout which helps them dig through sandy soil and also aids in catching prey. 

The top of the body can have gray, tan, brown, or olive color with square patches, bars, or parallel spots that run along the length of the body. The belly has a heavy pigmentation with solid black color under the tail. There are several subspecies of Western Hognose that come in different colors and patterns.

a Western Hognose Snake with its front half raised ready to strike

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 displaying a number of defensive acts when they feel threatened. They will flatten their necks or raise their heads which makes them look wider and stronger. Sometimes they may also create a loud hiss sound 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 fool others. 

If they do these defensive actions when you are trying to handle them, leave them alone for a while and try to handle them later.

This is what they usually do living in the wild but in captivity also you may see this behavior. Handling them often from a young age can lead to the snakes becoming calm and less prone to making defensive actions.

The Western Hognose Snakes are diurnal. Diurnal snakes are those that are active during the day. The tank that they live in should have a lamp installed to take care of their diurnal needs. Unlike most other pet snakes, they rarely attempt to escape their cage. 

It is always recommended to have a tight lid on top of the tank. This will prevent the snake from getting out even if it does go exploring. 

Their Compatibility with Children

Overall, these snakes are harmless and safe to be handled by children. They can sometimes move their head, strike with a closed mouth, or even play dead when they feel threatened. Though this is harmless, some kids may get scared of seeing this behavior. 

It is very important to have someone who is experienced with the kids when they are handing the snake the first few times.  This way if something unexpected does happen that an adult will be around to handle the situation.

Teach the kids how to handle the snake. It is important for children to support the entire body of the snake. This will prevent the snake from getting stressed.

Anyone handling the snake should wash their hands after handling the snakes. This is because most snakes are carriers of infectious diseases like Salmonella which can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain. It will prevent anyone that touched the snake from contracting bacterial and fungal diseases from the snakes.

Living Space for Western Hognose Snakes

They do not need a large living enclosure. Most Western Hognose Snakes will only grow to about 3 feet. They will be comfortable in a 20-gallon tank to live in. The tank should be divided into two sections – hot and cold.

a large Western Hognose Snake in the grass

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.

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 if the bowl is not it may tip over. Check this regularly to see if it needs changing or refilling.

There should also be many hiding spots for the Hognose to hide inside the tank. These can be made from plastic containers or cardboard boxes.

The flooring or substrate of the tank should allow them to burrow. You can add a few inches of sand mixed with reptile safe soil to let the snake burrow and hide. It isn’t very difficult to sterilize soil for their tanks if you didn’t want to buy it.

a thick Western Hognose Snake

Best Climate for Western Hognose Snakes

The temperature inside the hot section should be kept around 85 to 90 degrees while it should be around 70 degrees in the cold section. This will allow the snake to move from one section to another, depending on whether they want to bask in heat or cool down. 

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. This will allow one section of the tank to be warm and the other section to be cool. 

Regularly check the temperatures of the tank by placing thermometers inside. There should be thermometers on both the ends of the tank.

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

Placing a water bowl inside the tank can help to maintain the necessary. You can also mist the enclosure. Use a hygrometer to monitor the humidity level of the tank. 

As these snakes are diurnal they need some kind of lighting that simulates the sun if natural light is not available. It can be done by installing full-spectrum UVB lights. You can purchase them from a pet store. With a timer they can be switched on for 10 – 12 hours during the day, and kept off at night. 

The Attention a Western Hognose Snake Needs

Snakes do not require a lot of attention. It is recommended to handle at least a few times a week. Do not handle them for 5 – 6 hours after feeding them or when they are about to shed their skin.

Grooming and Care

A baby Western Hognose Snake may shed every week but an adult will share only once a month. Placing a bowl of water inside the tank is necessary. This should be cleaned daily. 

When snakes shed they like to submerge themselves in water. This helps them to soften their outer skin. Sometimes the snake will have patches of skin leftover on their body. It means they are having difficulty in shedding. 

Providing them with lukewarm water and increasing the humidity can help. If the problem still persists consult your vet.

The enclosure or tank of Western Hognose Snakes needs a deep cleaning once a month. This should be done with a soft bleaching solution of 3 to 5 percent. Before cleaning, 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. Leave the tank for a few minutes until it dries completely. Place everything back together, including the snake.

Apart from this, the tank needs to be checked frequently for poop, and moist substrate. These should be cleaned immediately to take care of the hygienic needs of the snake.

Health Issues

Like most other snakes, Hognose Snakes are also prone to having respiratory infections. Drooling, laziness and difficult breathing could be symptoms of respiratory conditions. This can be caused by inadequate humidity inside the tank. Take them to the vet immediately if you see any of these signs.

Stomatitis or mouth rot is another disease that some Western Hognose Snakes may get. This is a bacterial infection that causes white saliva bubbles and inflammation in the mouth. It can be painful for snakes and can even lead to loss of teeth if left untreated.

Some can also have fungal infections that can result in discoloration of skin or problems in shedding. Take the snake to your vet if any of these things happen with them. They will be able to suggest medications or treatments for the diseases. 

Mites can also be another health concern for your snakes. These are parasites that will suck the blood from your snake and cause them discomfort and stress. Your snake could have been infected at the pet store, or from something not properly sterilized within their tank. 

Snakes who have mites may have a loss of appetite, rub their skin frequently, or dip themselves in water for long periods of time. If this happens they would need to be cleaned with a matricide. This is available at your local pet store.

a coiled Western Hognose Snake
snake food

Feeding A Western Hognose Snakes

Hognose Snakes tend to be a little unpredictable when it comes to feeding them. Unlike other snakes, the Western Hognose Snakes are difficult to feed. They can often refuse to eat the food that you offer them.

When they refuse to eat, check to make sure that the temperatures on both sides of the tank are correct, and that the humidity is also within the range they like.  If it has been a while since the last cleaning of the tank consider cleaning it then. Another option is to either feed them a live meal, or make it appear that it is alive.

Young hatchlings will eat 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 it will eat pinkie mice and eventually large-sized mice once they turn onto an adult. The mice should be pre-killed and thawed before serving them.

Young Hognose hatchlings need to be fed two to three times a week while adult snakes should be fed once a week. They may eat less frequently if they are shedding their skin. 

A water bowl should also be placed in the cold section of the tank. This will provide Hognose access to water at all times.

Related Questions

Are Western Hognose Snakes venomous?

There is a lot of debate on this topic. Some reptile experts are of the view 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 do not bite and the rare times they do, it is not considered dangerous for humans.

What is the difference between female and male Western Hognose Snakes?

The females are longer and can grow up to 3 feet. The males are smaller and will usually have a length of about 2 feet. This helps to easily differentiate between male and female Hognose Snakes. The rest of the 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 can also 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 feign. This can sometimes be amusing as a snake owner.

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