Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Description: The eastern hognose is a medium-sized (20-33 inches, 510-840 mm), harmless snake with a heavy body and an upturned snout. Color variations include tan, yellow, brown and olive. It may have 20-30 brown dorsal blotches or be dull colored without blotches. It always has a pair of large dark brown or black blotches behind the head.
The belly is gray, yellow or pink, mottled with gray or greenish gray. Young eastern hognose snakes are brightly colored. It is also called "spreadhead", "puff adder" or "hissing viper", because of its habit of defending itself by flattening its head and neck, hissing and even striking with a closed mouth. If this fails to repel a threat, the hognose goes into convulsions, opens its mouth, rolls over and "plays dead".
Habitat and Habits: The eastern hognose is a burrowing snake that prefers sandy areas. Active by day, this species occurs in a variety of habitats, including sandy floodplains of rivers and streams, fields, prairies, open woods and rocky wooded hillsides. This snake prefers to feed on toads, but frogs, mice and insects are also eaten. The eastern hognose snake has a pair of enlarged teeth in the rear part of its upper jaw, which possibly help in swallowing large prey.
A spring breeder, the female lays 4-61 eggs in a shallow burrow in sand or loose soil, which hatch in August or September. The eastern hognose snake is active from late April to October or November. It overwinters under rocks or in abandoned small mammal burrows.
Distribution: This species is distributed in eastern and central United States (New England to Minnesota and South Dakota, south to Texas, Gulf Coast and Florida). South Dakota is at the northwestern edge of its range, with reports from Clay, Union and Yankton Counties.
Conservation Measures: In South Dakota, sand dune habitat along the Missouri River is being disturbed by recreational users and commercial and recreational development. Identifcation and protection of areas known to support the eastern hognose snake will aid in the conservation of this species in South Dakota.