What Kind of Snake Is This???
I only have one picture, but this snake was found on my front porch, and I just want to know what kind of snake is it. I've recently had a coral snake found on my front porch which I know is venomous so I want to know if this new snake I saw is venomous as well or not.
Thank you for your question. The snake in your photograph is a juvenile Eastern Hognose Snake (Heterodon platirhinos). This snake occurs throughout all of the southeastern states, except the extreme southeastern portion of Louisiana, and its range extends into Texas. Typical length is 20 - 33 inches. Maximum length is approximately 45 inches.
Once thought to be nonvenomous, they do, in fact, possess rear fangs. Their saliva is mildly venomous, and their bite has caused allergic reactions in individuals who are particularly sensitive to it. Bites, however, are rare. This species generally does not make attempts to actually bite people. Bites that do occur usually result when someone catches their finger on one of the rear fangs while the snake has its mouth open, pretending to be dead.
Hognose snakes are famous for their repertoire of self-defense techniques. When threatened they flatten and spread their neck, as you mention, to make themselves appear bigger. This behavior has earned them another common name in some areas, spreading adder. Some individuals hiss, open the mouth and make bluffing strikes. If these techniques don't discourage the threat, the snake will appear to go into convulsions and roll over on its back and play dead. Some individuals will open their mouth and let their tongue hang out. This is usually where some people stick their finger in the snake's mouth. Capillaries in the mouth may rupture creating bleeding from the mouth. The snake will remain in this position until the threat loses interest and leaves. In fact, if you roll the snake over on its stomach, it will immediately roll over on its back to continue the act.
Hognose snakes feed primarily on toads, but also eat frogs and small salamanders. There are some records of wild specimens who have eaten small turtles, lizards, small snakes, birds and small mammals. They use their upturned snout to dig in sandy soils and dislodge toads buried in the soil.
Hognose snakes reproduce by laying eggs. Clutch size usually average 20-25 eggs. Eggs are laid under rocks or in loose soil between May and August and hatch in 6-7 weeks.
Here's an excellent field guide for Texas snakes:
Dixon, James R. and John E. Werler. (2005). Texas Snakes - A Field Guide. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Hope this answers your question, and thank you for contacting Ask an Expert.