Field Guide to Maryland's Snakes (Order Squamata)


Family Colubridae

Eastern Hog-nosed Snake

Common Name:

Eastern Hog-nosed Snake


Scientific Name:

Heterodon platirhinos

Photo of Eastern Hog-nosed Snake courtesy of Corey Wickliffe
Photo of Eastern Hog-nosed Snake courtesy of Corey Wickliffe


Size:
20 - 33 inches. Record - 45½ inches.

Appearance:
  • The bizarre behavior of this snake when approached makes identification easy.
  • They initially hiss and spread their neck like a cobra’s hood, then go through the throes of death, roll over and play dead, letting their tongue hang out.
  • When turned upright they immediately roll back over.
  • Their coloration is variable with yellow, brown, gray, orange or red on a dark splotch patterned back, however some individuals are an un-patterned ebony black or dark grey.
  • The snout is upturned with a keel above, like a twin-bladed snow plow.
  • The underside of the tail is lighter than the dark mottled belly.
  • Scales keeled.

Photo of Eastern Hog-nosed Snake courtesy of John White
Photo of Eastern Hog-nosed Snake courtesy of John White


Habitats:

Anywhere there are sandy soils, including fields, any open woods, agricultural fields and pastures. Appear to prefer edge habitats.


How to Find:

This diurnal species can be found anywhere there are large toad populations, their main prey item. Walk field, forest and wetland edges in late Spring and Summer, particularly during a toad metamorphosis event, or look in your backyard vegetable garden. Typically “plays dead” when handled. Only a few reported bites by this species. Considered non-venomous, though it is a “rear-fanged” snake with mildly toxic saliva. Often mistaken for Copperhead.

Photo of Habitat for Eastern Hog-nosed Snake - courtesy of Rebecca Chalmers
Photo of Habitat for Eastern Hog-nosed Snake
courtesy of Rebecca Chalmers


Distribution in Maryland:

Can be found statewide but more abundant on the Coastal Plain.​

Eastern Hog-nosed Snake - Distribution in Maryland