It starts with a hiss! That’s the first thing kids experience when we introduce them to our friendly, but very dramatic hognose snakes. Throughout the ages animals have developed different ways to avoid getting eaten. How the hognose snake protects itself is both fascinating and hilarious at the same time.
Hognose snakes are one of my favorite snakes, and because of that they play a big part in our Reptile Viking show. They are small, but thanks to their strange looks and strange behavior they are hard to forget! Having no venom or any other weapon to defend themselves with, they have come up with a very unique way of scaring off predators, and kids think it’s hilarious!
Hognose? Does their nose really look like a pig’s nose? It kind of does! They have an upturned scale on their nose (rostral scale) that is very hard. They actually use this scale to help them dig through sandy soil and through leaf litter.
Imagine having a shovel for a nose and being able to dig a hole in the ground with your face – it’s a funny concept.
There’s one advantage to being a snake that hognoses rely on to protect themselves – animals are wary of snakes because some snakes are venomous. Hognose snakes lean into this by flaring out their necks like a cobra, hissing loudly and striking. These actions by themselves are sometimes enough to scare off a predator.
They are usually enough to startle a human too!
The fun thing about the way they strike is that they usually do so with their mouth totally closed! They aren’t actually trying to bite and inflict damage, they are just trying to scare the predator away.
For their size, their hiss is really loud!
Usually the hissing and striking does the trick, but occasionally a predator doesn’t fall for it and that’s when a hognose pulls out its trump card – playing dead.
Dead things are gross, especially when they stink! The hognose snake will make a dramatic display of dying. They writhe around, musk/poop all over themselves, and then end up on their back with their mouth open and tongue hanging out.
It certainly is a sight to see! They do smell really bad after doing this, so I imagine it works pretty well! Yuck!
The funny thing is, that once the snake is playing dead and on it’s back, if you go and flip the snake back onto its belly, it will flip back over onto its back! Dead things must lay on their back apparently.
Learn about this and much more in our engaging and interactive show – Reptile Viking. We hope to hear from you soon!