“ Animal Species: Snakes „
Thw Western Hognose is a delightful little snake to keep. I've been keeping snakes for 25 years but got my first "hoggy" just last autumn. He's still a baby and has just taken his first three-pinkie meal.
When I first got him he hissed and rattled his tail rather amusingly and headbutted every time I went to pick him up but once he adjusted to life with me and realised I was no threat that behaviour ceased and he now enjoys being picked up and handled. He likes curling up in my palm and being stroked on the back of the head.
At this stage he's still in a shoe-box style vivarium, albeit a larger one now, and on kitchen paper. He has a cave to hide in and a water bowl and is thriving.
Other reviews have covered all the facts about the equipment and temperature ranges etc needed to care for one of these lovely creatures, but I wanted to stress the temperament. The word "venomous" can strike fear into the heart of many a person and it would be such a shame if this adorable little snake was overlooked for that reason. Having discussed this with other snake keepers and breeders, I know of only one who got bitten and had a bad reaction, but subsequent tests proved he had an allergy to the saliva. Even then, he likened it to a bee sting. I have not heard of anyone else having been bitten.
Western hognoses are tiny, gentle, inquisitive snakes, beautifully marked and so easy to keep. Don't let that word "venomous" put you off - my Hoggy has one of the nicest temperaments I've ever come across in all my 25 years of experience. This is the only venomous snake I keep because I have no desire to win a bravery award by keeping a snake that could pose a threat to me, let alone anybody else!
Western hognose snakes are not one of the more common snakes to be kept as a pet although in my oppinion they are great as a pet.
They only grow to about 30 inches which is less than 3 foot, they originally come from arizona, mexico and texas so are very happy to live on a sand base in there tank.
I find a glass tank is best with mine, you need quite a lot of sand in the bottom as these snakes like to burrow.
We have a wooden hide box which he likes to hide under when he sleeps.
You will ned to keep your tank warm, it needs to be 85'f in the day and 75'f at night. I find a heat bulb is best to achieve this.
There main diet is frogs but as you cant realy supply these in captivity a mouse is the next best thing.
You will only need a small water bowl for it to drink from as they dont like to lie in the water like other snakes do.
These snakes are better kept on there own as even a male and female will fight.
They are most active first thing in the morning and early evening
And during winter mine always refuses to eat so has to be force fed.
Ours is slightly different coloured from the picture above, his patches are more of a burnt orange colour not brown like the picture above and he has a strange black tongue.
If he is scared or startled he will flattern his head, hiss and strike at your hand but never actually bites, but i wouldnt recomend these as a first snake.
An excellent snake for ANY level of experience.
Western Hognose snakes (Heterodon Nasicus) are tractable, curious active little snakes. rarely growing over two feet long and in some rare cases, may grow to 3 feet. (Respective to gender of course) Mild mannerd and tollerant to even the clumsiest of human hands.
While the Heterodon Nasicus and sub species ARE both rear fanged and venomous, due to the mildness of toxicity of the venom, the small amount of venom actually secreted, the snake's aversion to defensive biting and it's small mouth pose little risk of injury to humans. Some persons accidentially bitted by this snake under feeding responces have reported sensitivity to the venom where minor localized pain and swelling occurs. Pain from the venom of this snake has been described as having one's finger slammed in a door. An easy way to avoid a bite from this snake is to wash your hands just prior to handling, don't smell like food. Simple. A snake hook, shield and tongs are OVERKILL in keeping this animal.
It is often said that the rear fangs are used for deflating toads, this is a myth. The fangs are far too short to accomplish this. The fact is, it's fangs, like other fanged snaked are a venom delivery system. The venom aids this snake (and other venomous snakes) in digestion and the venom contains anti-coagulant properties. For the more curious about this snake's venom, venomdoc.com has some material on the matter. For those that consider this animal as a first "HOT" snake, for the reasons above, it is not considered a "HOT" and is not a snake that will "train" you for a "HOT". If you wish to classify it, "Legless puppydog" comes VERY close.
Defensive behavior is a total bluff. It will rear up, spread it's hood and hiss, if that doesn't work, it may deliver a closed mouth strike, bumping against it's agressor with it's blunt nose. When that doesn't work, it often flips over on it's back, belly up, mouth agape, tongue hanging out of its mouth to play dead.
Picking the snake up restores it to its curious nature, it calms down quickly and begins to explore hands and fingers tolerating touching and light petting well.
Feeding is not difficult. Mine loves a diet of toads, mice and lizards of which I offer in variation, about twice a week. Although it's not uncommon for this snake to go off feed for a week or two. During which time it's still quite active and curious.
My boyfriend and I have four snakes, one of which is a Western Hognose Snake, or Heterodon Nasicus to give her her proper title! Aurora (as we called her) first caught our attention because of her extremely cute face and little upturned nose. In the wild, Hognose Snakes use their noses to burrow and to dig up toads; toads make up about 50% of a wild Hognose's diet, the rest consisting of lizards, mice and small eggs. A chat to the reptile shop owner quickly made us decide that a hognose would be a great addition to our collection, and it just so happened that we had a spare viv, so money was exchanged, and Aurora came home with us! Western Hognose snakes are found across central North America, from southern Manitoba, Canada, through the Great Plains and into northern Mexico. Hognose snakes are opisthoglyphous, which means that they have fangs at the back of their mouths. They also have a mild venom, but it is not really known whether this venom is injected through the fangs or whether they simply have a mildly toxic saliva. It is thought that the venom and the fangs may be used to subdue and deflate toads. In any event, these snakes are not dangerous. Any venom they have is very mild, their fangs are set so far back you would practically need to push your finger down their throat to get bitten, and Western Hognoses can hardly be induced to bite, even in the wild. Instead, these snakes have a defence mechanism that is unique among snakes: If threatened, a Hognose will puff up and hiss (an act that often gets them killed as they are mistaken for puff adders.) The snake may even strike out, but will always stop short of actually biting. If the perceived threat does not go away, the hognose may then convulse wildly, flip over onto its back and play dead. (often with an open mouth, lolling
tongue, and they may even emit blood from their mouths and anal openings!) All in all, the Hognose snake puts up a very convincing act of first dying, and then playing dead - the only give away being that if you put the snake back onto its belly, it will flip over onto its back again ? because of course, all dead things lie on their backs!!!! Western Hognose Snakes become tame very quickly, so it is unlikely that many owners will ever get to see such a spectacular display. Aurora will puff up, hiss and strike when you reach into her enclosure (or even if you are standing too close to it if she is in that kind of a mood!) but as soon as you have hold of her, she becomes as placid as a puppy. HOUSING Western Hognose snakes live for around 15-18 years and are quite a small snake reaching a length of about 30?. Because of this, they don?t need very large vivariums, and one of about 2?X2?X2? should be adequate for the snake?s entire life. Hognose snakes need to be kept alone as they will not tolerate any other snake in their territory apart from at breeding times. Like all snakes, hide boxes will be appreciated ? never think you are doing your snake a favour by providing a large hide, snakes like to feel secure in their hide, and do best in one where they can coil up with their coils touching the sides. Aurora?s favourite hiding place is inside a hollow forked piece of wood that came from a reptile shop. She spends most of her time inside this wood ? often only sticking half of her body out to grab her dinner, swallow it down and then retreat back inside! SUBSTRATE Because they are natural burrowers, Hognose?s need a substrate of a depth that they can easily burrow into. Aurora is kept on shredded paper (not newspaper) but there are plenty of commercially available substrates th
at your local reptile shop can advise on. HEATING AND LIGHTING Hognose snakes need temperatures of around 65 degrees Farenheit at the lowest end up to a basking temperature of about 90 degrees Farenheight. Most snakes do not require UV lighting, but it will not be detrimental if you want to provide it. They do however, require a night time and a day time ?so be sure to turn the light off at night. Aurora has a ceramic heater for temperature requirements (controlled by a thermostat) and a fluorescent light during the day for her daylight hours. HUMIDITY As with many reptiles, you will read conflicting advise on whether or not humidity is required. We do not spray Aurora?s enclosure, if she wants moisture, she simply soaks in her water bowl. This seems to work very well. FEEDING In captivity, Western Hognose Snakes can be fed solely on frozen and thawed mice, but they can be picky feeders, so if you are buying a Hognose, do check that it is taking mice with no trouble before you buy. Aurora is a fantastic eater, she has 3 fuzzies (baby rats or mice that are just growing hair) a week and eats them with great vigour. Unlike our corn and rat snakes who always eat their meals head first, Aurora eats it any which way she grabs it ? forwards, backwards, sidewards, upside down! It?s a good idea to add a vitamin and mineral supplement to the occasional feed (we do it about every 4 ? 6 weeks). BREEDING I?m not into breeding reptiles myself, so will just run you through the basics: Hognose snakes reach sexual maturity at about two years of age in captivity. The snakes lay eggs from June through July and some may occasiona
lly double clutch. Hognoses lay between 4 and 24 eggs. Prior to the female laying her eggs, a nesting box with vermiculite/water mix should be made available. Place the box in the portion of the enclosure that has the most constant temperature, preferably away from the basking light. With any luck, the female will seek out her nesting site and lay eggs just after a pre-parturition shed. Once the eggs are laid the box should be placed in an incubator with a temperature range of about 73 to 88 degrees Fahrenheit. Typical incubation for Western hognoses is 60 to 80 days depending on temperature and humidity. COST AND AVAILABILITY As with all reptiles, the setting up is the expensive part. Aurora cost us £75 to buy, and we already had a viv set up, but expect to spend about another £100 - £200 for the vivarium. After that, they are fairly cheap to keep, Aurora eats 3 fuzzies a week at 35p per fuzzie. Much cheaper than most pets. Vet bills are always expensive for exotic pets, but if the animal is properly cared for, you shouldn?t have many vets bills. We have had Aurora for nearly 5 years, and not yet had the need of a veterinarian. Do make sure if you are wanting to a snake, that you know where your nearest exotic vet is, you don?t want to be trying to find one in an emergency. For some reason, Western Hognoses are not as readily available as snakes such as Corns and Rats. Maybe it?s because unlike corns, reptile shops can?t stuff a whole load of Hognose snakes in a viv together until they sell. However, most reptile shops should be able to get one for you if you ask, or alternatively, try to find one through a private breeder. All in all, the Western Hognose is a very easy snake to keep and maintain
in captivity. Its great character, gentle disposition, and ease of handling make it a suitable snake for a beginner as well as a fun pet for a more experienced keeper. I?m certainly glad that we bought Aurora home with us, and would recommend these snakes to any reptile lover.