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Snakes As Pets:
As with most other reptiles, Hognoses are
quiet, do not stink and need very little effort from your
side to keep them happy. Most specimens will feed at
intervals not less than a week. Western Hognose snakes are very tough and easy to keep and will adapt in
almost any responsible home. Hognoses are relatively small
when compared to other, even small snakes and their housing
do not need a lot of space. They prefer dead or thawed prey
over live ones which can make food management a lot easier.
At this stage Hognose snakes are relatively
expensive in comparison with other pet snakes. As with most snakes
they are also very shy and will hide away most of the
time, only to come out when they need to feed or bask or feel
like it. Being poisonous
they cannot be handled easily and regularly and especially not
by children or non-responsible persons. Some snakes might prefer
carrion which can become a nuisance to work with.
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Hognoses are relatively scarce in South Africa, they
tend to be a bit more expensive than the usual pet snake. As
far as I am concerned babies go in the region of ZAR700 to
900 (2005). Do not buy new-born Hognoses that did not have
at least one or two pinkies and did not shed at least once.
rarer species/colour morphs will obviously be more
expensive. Make sure to enquire before buying older specimens.
Some, even older, specimens can be picky eaters or even
anorexic for long periods.
Always remember only to
buy healthy animals from reputable pet shops and breeders. Make
sure you buy animals that are captive bred in your own country
and that is not illegally imported or caught from the wild.
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The Bare Minimum For Keeping Western Hognose Snakes:
The minimum requirements for keeping
Western Hognose snakes are
listed below. Refer to the General
Snake Care Sheet for more information on the basic keeping
of snakes before reading this section:
- Correct size prey, live or frozen
- Water bowl
- Warmish room or heating equipment
A single Hognose need
very little space to thrive. An area of (30 x 30) cm / (12 x
12) " with a water bowl, hiding and substrate will be
adequate. Males can be kept separate or with one to three
females in the same enclosure. When more than one snake is
housed the same container the size guidelines in the
Care Sheet apply.
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Western Hognose Snake Captive Care Environment:
temperatures should be maintained between 25 - 30 ºC / 75
- 86 ºF.
A small drop of about 5 °C / 41 °F during the night should not do any harm. A heat
gradient that exceeds both these temperatures by 1 or 2
degrees C / 30 degrees F should be maintained for thermoregulation.
Hognose snakes can be
housed in a variety of containers. Small snakes can be kept in
small to medium lunch boxes or ice-cream boxes. Small holes for
ventilation should be drilled in the sides or in the lid. Small
acrylic containers specifically made for small pets, so called
"Pal Pens" or "Desert Dens" can be bought from most pet shops.
For bigger snakes anything large enough will be appropriate.
Glass tanks or aquariums used for fish make good housing and can
be cleaned easily. When using a glass tank, make sure the lid
ahs a tight fit and that
there is appropriate ventilation. Snakes are masters of escape!
A cabinet with glass-fronted doors that can slide open or a vivarium is
also widely in use.
Hognoses are burrowers
and although not necessary, a deep soft substrate can also be
used as hiding. Sand is widely used when keepers wants to
stimulate burrowing behaviour. Refer to the
Substrates For Herptiles section for more information on
The rest of the
environmental factors are discussed in the
General Snake Care
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Hognose Snake Handling:
Because these snakes are
potentially harmful to humans when they bite, Hognoses must always
be handled with caution. Do not let non-responsible, children or
inexperienced people handle one.
Hognose snakes do not
wrap snugly around your arm like pythons or kings. They tend to
pick a direction and go for it. Although they are relatively
small in body mass, they are quite strong. Gently grasp the back
of the head with one hand and support the middle of the body
with the other. It is recommended to use special snake handling
equipment to handle these snakes. Never handle or attempt to pick up an
aggressive snake without these equipment, rather wait until it has calmed down. When
a snake bit get the snake to leave its grip as soon as possible
and do not let it bite or work its way deeper into the biting
site. Special snake handling equipment can also be used to
handle these snakes.
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Hognose Snake Behaviour:
Like most snakes
Hognose snakes are shy and prefer to hide away during most of the
They are most active during late evenings and early mornings.
Being natural burrowers,
hence the upright "hog" nose, these snakes spend most of their active burrowing.
When given the opportunity they will hide away
under the terrarium substrate. Suitable / safe burrowing
substrates include corn cob, loose sand and wood shavings. Refer
to the Suitable Substrates For
Herptile section for more information on the safety of- and
other suitable substrates for Hognose snakes.
They are known to
be opportunistic feeders
and will eat dead prey, often which has been dead for a long
time. Another strange thing about their feeding behaviour is
that they will often take prey from the side of the body rather than from
the head like most snakes do. With this they will literally bend
the body in half while swallowing it down.
These snakes are great
bluffers and although most individuals are docile, some of them
can put up a huge act. When aggressive specimens are disturbed
they can react by huffing and puffing, often raising the head
and flattening the neck like a cobra. Sometimes they will also
make mock strikes with a closed mouth, but most of the time they will have no intention to
If all of this fails they might even try to play dead (thanatosis), although
this behaviour is rarely seen in captivity.
Hognoses will very
rarely bite, but when they do they will often keep on biting and
work their mouth and teeth deeper into the biting site. Some authors claim
that this is only because of their aggressive feeding behaviour
and the fact that they wrongfully confuse the handler as potential prey.
Refer to the
Western Hognose Snake Zoology section for more information
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Hognose babies are
only ready to be sold after their first self caught meal
(not force fed). Shedding should take place about two to
days after hatching after which they start to take food.
Some buyers insist on seeing the physical skin and the feeding records.
When buying a new
Hognose snake, note whether it is male or female, if possible, get the
date of birth and the shed and feed records. When buying a
hatchling, try to take a look at the parents of the snake,
especially when buying certain subspecies. This will give an
indication of how the snake will look when mature. In short, get
as much as possible information from the seller. The more info
you get, the better you will be able to care for the snake (if
that person did not talk rubbish). If not sure about the behaviour of the snake, call him/her, ask, ask and ASK!
If the seller can not
give you most of the above info, he or she is not worth to be
called a breeder or a seller for that matter. In this case it is
maybe better not to buy from this person!
When selecting a
Hognose snake, look for a well fleshed body, no visible cuts or
abrasions, clear, alert eyes, no nasal discharge, tongue flicking, no signs of mites
or ticks and a clean vent.
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Mature females have
better appetites when compared to males, but experience
shows that even females eat less than most other snakes.
It is advised to work out the feeding behaviour separately
form other snakes and feed accordingly. Males, which also
stays considerately smaller when compared with females, survive on only a
very few meals per year.
These snakes will take
dead, thawed and often rotten prey (carrion). We prefer to kill
the prey before feeding. Hatchlings will start off with small
pinkies and adults will consume one or more young adult mice at
Refer to the Reptile &
Amphibian Feeding Problems section for more information on what
to do if a Hognose refuses to eat.
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Hognose Snake Reproduction:
After sexual maturity (at the age of about two years), adult
Hognoses breed in the spring and early summer. They are
oviparous (egg-laying). Clutches usually consists of two to
small soft shelled eggs. Double clutching is possible when
a female has a good body condition score and health.