Hognose Quick Facts
Scientific name: Heterodon nasicus
Size: 1 – 3.5ft
Lifespan: 15 – 20 years
Wild Population: 100,000+
Primary Colour: Multiple Dependant on morph.
Habitat: Eastern United States
Difficulty of Keeping: Easy
Optimum environment Temperature: 90°F hotspot with ambient temp of 75°F
What do they eat? Mice.
Eggs or Live birth: Egg baring snake.
Venomous: Rear Fanged Venomous.
Are they kept in captivity? Hognoses are increasing in popularity due to their small size and easy care once set up correctly.
Ease of keeping as a pet: An easy snake to care for and ideal for first time snake.
Cost: Ranges between $10 – $2,000 dependant on morph (colour)
About The Hognose
This snake is the most unusual looking, with a pig looking nose, it is fair to say loving their appearance is a bit marmite. Hognoses are great are burrowing in soil and leaves, their nose acts as a shovel and allow them into places of security.
Most hoggies are puppy-dog tame, but this really depends on how much time you take getting your snake used to handling and the occasionally diablo which just won’t quit. When buying your snake, handle them for a good 10 minutes and you will get a sure idea on the temperament of the particular snake.
These snakes ARE venomous, though before you get too concerned and disappear, not all venom is fatal. This venom is deadly to prey they eat in the wild, but for most humans there will be little to no effect from a bite. There are some cases in which a person has had a reaction to the bite, but we are unable to find any recorded death from a hognose bite.
For further reassurance, the fangs of a hognose are at the rear of the mouth. If bitten by a hognose, it would have to get your limb quite far down its mouth to even come into contact with you.
Hognose snakes, more so when young will actually play dead if they feel threatened and can’t get away. They will go belly up and even go as far as sticking their tongue out!
When young they are vulnerable to many predators, so this defensive mechanism has evolved into their natural wild response. This is quite rare to see in captive snakes as they are more inclined to puff up and hiss at owners when nervous.
Growing anywhere between 15 – 26 inches, the hognose is tiny in comparison to most snakes, this works out great for new-keepers as their housing will not take up half of your house.
These little snakes can show a real attitude, they do a bluff bite, a hognose is well known for avoiding confrontation but if back into a corner, rather than bite they will do a fake strike and not open their mouth. It is like a little man syndrome!
Do Hognoses Make Good Pets?
Yes, and for many reasons. First their size and how compact of a living area they will thrive in compared to other snakes.
Secondly, their unique among even the reptile community and the care is simple, the hognose is the perfect pet for experienced or new keepers alike.
If you are seriously considering a pet hognose for your first snake, we would recommend reading this article to ensure they fit the bill in what your expectations are.
Other great options are the corn snake, king snake or for more advanced snake keepers the green tree python.
Checklist Before Getting A Hognose
- Food (Frozen-thawed Mice)
- Hides & Decoration
- Water Bowl
- Reptile-safe cleaning equipment
This seems to be the most common place in which new keepers are put off from owning snakes or reptiles in general. The cost of setting up a new snake such as the hognose is more expensive than the snake itself.
This should not bother you too much as all of the equipment needed to start does not need replacing often and last for many years. After getting everything, you need the maintenance costs are lower than the cost of owning a small mammal.
2ft long vivarium is adequate for most hognoses, though we recommend a 3ft as this allows the snake to completely stretch out. Another pro is with the added space it gives you the freedom to be more creative and make their enclosure look beautiful.
The depth and height are around 1ft, most standard made vivarium will work just fine as they are not an arboreal snake, more attention should be made to improving the floor space with hides and retreats.
Just a final tip is to not forget to get a vivarium lock, hognoses are escape artists and given the chance they will get out and hide. Make the small investment on keeping your terrarium secured with a rubber stop or lock.
You will need to find if a heat mat or a bulb works best for you and each have their own pros and cons.
A heat bulb increases the ambient air temp within the enclosure better and infra-red bulbs make the cage look like a feature within you house, but it costs more on energy bills and slightly more costly replacing bulbs.
A heat mat works best for naturally warm areas and is the most popular of the two, it is super cheap on electricity. The only con is the lack of heating the air within the terrarium but that does not cause any issues as a hognose will bask on the ground.
So you know which you want, now whilst you are shopping for you heat source, you must get a thermostat that is correct for your choice. The most important piece of equipment for any reptile is a quality thermostat. It will regulate the temperature within the cage and prevent your pet burning themselves.
For a heat bulb a dimming thermostat, for a heat mat, get a mat-stat. A mat-stat is significantly cheaper than a dimming but if you use a mat stat with a bulb, you will find yourself replacing bulbs within few months or less.
The basking area should be set to 85 – 90 degrees F, the cooler side for a 2-3ft vivarium will naturally be around 70 – 75 degrees. Do not let this get too far below 70 as this can cause issues.
A hognose loves to burrow within their vivarium, they will thank you for a bedding which allows this. We recommend our favourite Aspen, it has so many pros and little to no cons. It also is fantastic for making burrow tunnels without collapsing.
Aspen is found online or at almost every local pet store that covers reptile stock, we buy ours in bulk as it works out cheaper and does not have a shelf life.
Shredded or plain newspaper, cypress mulch, beech chip, orchid bark or artificial reptile grass are other options.
A baby hognose will eat crickets with calcium powder sprinkled on, within 6 months they will progress onto pinkie mice. Do not keep your hognose on crickets as they do not have as much nutritional value that rodents have.
Feeding mice once a week is more than enough with an appropriately sized meal. If you are unsure what size rodent to feed, use the thickest part of the snake’s body and aim to get the mouse to be as close to this. Slightly larger or smaller will not cause any issues.
Buying health-check guide
It is easy to get too excited when you go and see a potential new pet snake, but this has proven costly for some new owners, you must inspect the snake to see if they are healthy, we must note that unhealthy snakes being sold are few and very far between. If you do notice inadequate care being given, please report this to your local rescue or authority.
So, let’s start with what to look for.
This starts as soon as you see them, are they alert about their surroundings? the tongue should be flickering. A defensive snake is better situation than a lethargic one.
Picking the snake up
When you pick up the snake is it holding its own bodyweight and not lethargic or limp.
Is there any discharge coming from or around the mouth area, this can be the early signs of a raspatory infection which can be fatal if left untreated?
Start with the head of the snake check for any mites or parasites, around the eyes is often the most common place but they also can be found underneath the head in the groves of the snake’s bottom jaw.
They will be clearly visible on lighter coloured snakes but with dark it can be more of a challenge; a great way is to look for scales that may be uplifted in random places.
Their eyes should be clear with no stuck shed, if there is little shed on the head or on the body, simply put them in a bath or sink with room temp water and this will soften the skin for gentle removal.
During this check a healthily hognose will move around and just being naturally curious about its surroundings.
Now to check the anus of the snake is there any discharge or anything stuck to or around the area? This area should always be clean.
Finally check the tail of the snake does it go to a straight point or does it have signs of the end of the tail dropping of, if so, this can be an area that is open to infection in the future.
When buying a snake, reputable breeders have records of their feeding and if they have taken the meal, ask to see this or ask the breeder to feed the snake.