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Don't Turn Your Nose Up At Me!
Member Name: Buzby
Date: 06/06/04, updated on 06/06/04 (7114 review reads)
Advantages: Not too big, Great characters, Easy to care for
Disadvantages: Their feistiness may put some people off, Not always readily available
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.
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!
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.
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.
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).
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 AVAILABILI TY
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.