Albino western hognose snake, Heterodon nasicus

Western hognose snakes are small and cute with big attitudes

At a glance...
  • Western hognose snakes have huge personalities
  • Comical-looking upturned noses make them a unique pet
  • A fun, cute and challenging small snake
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Do Western hognose snakes make good pets?

Western hognoses are quite small snakes with huge personalities, this, along with their comical upturned noses makes them an entertaining, interesting and unique pet to have around. These snakes are quite vocal and can be a little stubborn, often hissing and puffing their necks out like a cobra when they feel threatened, but they can be tamed down if enough time is spent with them.

Western hognose snakes are rear-fanged venomous, which means that rather than injecting traditional venom through hypodermic front fangs like cobras or rattlesnakes, they have modified salivary glands in their cheeks, and can secrete toxic saliva over the rear fangs as they chew down on their prey. Due to this, they do need to chew the venom in, so a simple strike and bite will not envenomate you, and their venom is no more potent than that of a bee sting, but it should be kept in mind when handling this species as more severe reactions can occur when a person is allergic.

In extremely stressful situations, the Western hognose snake can play dead, essentially they will lay on their back with their mouth open and tongue out whilst producing a strong, foul smell to mimic the scent of rotting flesh. This is a highly advantageous defense mechanism in the wild, but in captivity can be quite worrying to new owners. Playing dead isn’t particularly common in captive environments, but if it happens, your hognose should be allowed to come around in their own time.

At Swell Reptiles, our Western hognose snakes are all captive bred in the UK, meaning you can be safe in the knowledge that your snake came from a reliable source with minimal environmental impact.

What size vivarium does a Western hognose snake need?

Western hognose snakes are diurnal and quite active, so although they are small snakes we still recommend an adult enclosure size of 90 x 60 x 60cm (3 x 2 x 2ft). This can be either a wooden or glass enclosure, although wooden vivariums tend to hold heat better so make a better option, something like a wooden vivarium makes a great option, but a glass terrarium could also work as an absolute minimum.

What heating equipment do I need for a Western hognose snake?

Western hognose snakes do best with a basking area temperature of 32°C (89°F) and a cool end temperature around 22-25°C (71-77°F) to allow them to control their own body temperature. The easiest way to achieve this is either using a heat bulb or ceramic heater hooked up to the relevant thermostat (dimming thermostats for basking lamps, pulse thermostats for ceramic heaters). It is important to protect this using a heat guard to prevent the snake from wrapping around the fixture and becoming burnt.

We do not recommend using heat mats for this species, firstly because they do not work very well to heat such a large area, but also because Western hognoses like to burrow and are likely to get down too deep and close to heat mat, which can be dangerous.

Do Western hognose snakes need UV?

Being diurnally active, Western hognose snakes are often exposed to sunlight in nature, and can benefit significantly from a low-level UVB with a UVI between 2-3. This is most easily achieved using an Arcadia ShadeDweller Max placed between 25-40cm (10-15”) from the snakes highest basking point. If your light fixture will need to be higher than this, but no higher than 45cm (18”) from the highest basking point, an Arcadia ProT5 Kit - Forest 6% would be a better option.

Which substrate should I get for my Western hognose snake?

Western hognoses are a burrowing species, so should be provided with a deep layer of loose substrate. Good options for this include lignocel or soft chip reptile bedding, however, if you would like to add live plants, a soil-sand based planting substrate such as Arcadia EarthMix Arid would be a better option, as it will provide a much better growing medium for the plants.

How do I decorate a Western hognose snake’s vivarium?

At the very least your Western hognose snake should be provided with two hiding caves, one at each end of the enclosure to provide them with a safe space right along the thermogradient. Another important and functional piece of decor is a water dish, which should be large enough for the snake to comfortably soak in if they choose to do so. Further cover and enrichment can be provided in the form of branches and vines, logs, tunnels, rocks and foliage either using live or artificial plants.

What do Western hognose snakes eat?

Western hognose snakes are carnivorous and naturally feed on a variety of small amphibians, rodents, lizards and eggs. In captivity, they are fed a diet primarily made up of frozen-thawed frozen rats and frozen mice, with mice being the better staple option as they are less fatty and protein-rich than rats. Other food items such as quail eggs or frogs legs can be offered occasionally, but care should be taken as some individuals may go off the more nutritious mice when fed these too often.

How do I buy a Western hognose snake?

If you like the look of our UK captive bred Western hognose snakes, please pop down to our superstore and see us in person. We will ask to see a few images of your set-up to temperature and with adequate lighting and will ask a few quick questions to ensure you are ready to adopt. We reserve the right to refuse adoption to anyone we feel is unprepared to adopt.

For more detailed husbandry information, please see our Western Hognose Snake Care Sheet.

Common names Western hognose snake, Hognose snake
Scientific name Heterodon nasicus
Country North America
Captive-bred Yes
Adult size 60-75cm (2-2.5ft)
Natural habitat Prairies, grassland, rocky, semi-arid habitats
Housing 90 x 60 x 60cm (3 x 2 x 2ft)
Ideal temperature 32°C (89°F) (warn end); 22-25°C (71-77°F) (cool end)
UVI 2-3
Ideal humidity 30-50%
Diet Carnivorous
Average lifespan 10-15 years
Personality Stubborn but can be tamed
Ease of handling Easy-moderate
Cohabitable No
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