Discover Maryland's Herps

Field Guide to Maryland's Snakes (Order Squamata)

Sub-order Serpentes, Family Colubridae

Eastern Hog-nosed Snake
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 - 45 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.

    Maryland Distribution May for Eastern Hog-nosed Snake

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    Maryland Amphibian
    and Reptile Atlas Project

    "A Joint Project of the Natural History Society of Maryland, Inc. and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources"

    For monthly newsletters of the Maryland Amphibian & Reptile Atlas Project click on Recent Newsletters and scroll down to the MARA Newsletters.

    The Maryland Herpetology Field Guide is a cooperative effort of the MD Natural Heritage Program and the MD Biological Stream Survey within the Department of Natural Resources and their partners. We wish to thank all who contributed field records, text, and photographs, as well as support throughout its development.