By Meaghan English, TrueSouth Properties Wildlife Specialist
“There’s no good snake but a dead snake”- the most common phrase used by someone who cannot properly identify snakes, but kills them anyway. Unfortunately, this is the mindset for many organisms across the board. They look terrifying or they are improperly identified, therefor they are murdered. I am here to try to change that! I think it is important as outdoorsmen and women that we educate ourselves about the critters we may encounter as we step into their environment. I’m not suggesting that we need to memorize the scientific name of every snake or mammal in the Southeast, but we do need to be able to properly identify some organisms.
If there’s one snake that gets the shovel more than any other, it’s the Eastern Hognose snake (Heterodon platirhinos). Due to its upturned snout and the way it can “puff” its neck out like a cobra, the snake immediately freaks people out and many have claimed they saw a cobra! Have no fear; this snake is the farthest thing from a cobra. The upturned nose allows the snake to dig a hole in sand or dirt. Their broad head forces many people to think they are venomous, but they are not. They are actually quite shy. The Eastern Hognose is spotted frequently in the spring during reproduction time and can be seen regularly crossing roads. The snake itself does not get any longer than about 4 feet, but most are only 2-3 feet long with very thick bodies. The coloration of these snakes varies greatly; some are black, some are black and brown, and some are much lighter depending on their environment. These snakes also do not hide in or underneath lying tin or old wood; they are almost always in plain sight. When threatened by a predator, the Eastern Hognose will puff its neck out and pretend to strike (just like a cobra). If that doesn’t work, the snake will roll over onto its back and play dead, persuading the predator to move onto better things. Their favorite meal is a good ol’ toad, but they will snack on frogs and salamanders as well (not humans!) They are protected in Georgia, but not in any other state. This snake is pretty neat in the whole scheme of things. They are smart enough to play dead in order to escape predators and just want to eat frogs!
I’ll bet anyone reading this has seen an Eastern Hognose, or knows someone who has! Hopefully you went on your merry way and left the snake unharmed. There are no cobras in the South, just Eastern Hognoses looking for frogs and playing dead along the way. I hope this helps you out next time you are out in the woods and you will be able to properly identify this amazing, shy snake!
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