How to care for a Western hognose snake

The Western Hognose is a small species of snake found in North America, inhabiting grasslands, prairies and rocky, arid terrain. They are usually a very light brown-tan colour with dark brown spots down the body, with some larger dark brown markings around the head.

The Swell Superstore Hognose is ‘het snow’ which means it physically looks like a wild type but carries genes for a ‘snow’ Hognose, which are pale grey-white in colour. They are characterised by they shovel-like nose which is turned up on their face. Hognose are quite the characters and may prove a challenge to tame down, being quite feisty and vocal, though they are often handled in the pet trade.

They are diurnally active so you will see plenty of this snake during the day, and even though they are burrowers by nature, seem to enjoy venturing over rocks, logs, lower branches, tunnels and foliage, so be sure to make use of plenty of decor in your vivarium. This will provide plenty of mental stimulation and exercise for your snake, but to make it even more interesting, why not try moving the decor around each time you clean! 

Housing

Loose substrate should be used in a deep layer to enable them to burrow, an important behaviour of this species. A sand-soil mix, or Arcadia’s Earthmix Arid, are good examples of a substrate that won’t hold too much humidity but will hold shape when burrowed in to create tunnels, though other alternatives may have the same qualities. To cater to this snake’s active lifestyle we suggest a vivarium of 3x2x2’/90x60x60cm.

Heating and lighting

Basking opportunity will be essential in your setup, best reached with a basking bulb or ceramic heat emitter at one end of the vivarium. Even though this species is strictly terrestrial it is still essential that the bulb is protected with a guard as they are quite inquisitive snakes that could burn themselves if given opportunity. 

It is essential that any heat source is attached to the relevant thermostat, ensuring the safety of your animal and keeping the correct temperatures in your environment. For the hognose the basking temperature should be around 32C with the cooler end of the tank being around 22-25C, giving a good gradient for thermo-regulation. 

Temperatures can be monitored using a digital thermometer for accuracy. During the night, these temperatures can safely drop to around 15C, and this provides a drop that would be natural in the wild. In a natural setting, your Hognose would be exposed to UVB and this makes a beneficial addition to your vivarium, especially for providing day and night cycles.

The bulb you use would depend on the height of the enclosure but some good examples are Arcadia’s ShadeDweller or a 6% T5 strip bulb. Any UV will have a lifespan, after which the UV will fade despite the bulb still glowing, so it important that this is kept on top of. The lifespan would be bulb dependent and can range from 6-12 months.

Being carnivorous, the Hognose will feed solely on other animals, which in captivity consists of defrosted mammal species. This species has a high metabolism, though one feed a week is still sufficient. Due to links of ill health and the high protein of certain prey items such as rats, it is recommended to keep your Hognose on mice which will gradually get larger with your snake.

The prey will be defrosted and offered on tweezers, though you might notice this species doesn’t coil as constrictors would, and this is because the Hognose is a rear-fanged species, although there is plenty of debate as to whether they should be described as venomous.

They do not have the typical hollow teeth of other venomous snakes but the substance, which is actually modified saliva, is missing many components of true venom, but seems to seep into the bite and have an adverse effect on small prey items. For humans, the bite would cause no more than swelling and some pain, and it has often been compared to that of a bee sting.

Species profile

  • Scientific name – Heterodon nasicus
  • Adult Expected Size – 2-2.5ft
  • Habitat – Arid, rocky environments as well as grasslands and prairies. Terrestrial living.
  • Required Enclosure Size – 3 x 2 x 2ft
  • UV Lighting – 2-3 UVI (ShadeDweller or 6% T5 – height dependent)
  • Expected Lifespan – 10-15 years
  • Temperature Gradient – 22-32C
  • Humidity Levels – 30-50%
  • Feeding – Defrosted mammals once weekly (mice recommended)
  • Handling – Can be stubborn when taming but usually easily handled. one person handle. Handling to be avoided 48 hours after feeding and when shedding.


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