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Southern Hognose Snake Fact File

Heterodon simus

Credit: Spineback1, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Weight

46-120g

(1.6-4.2oz)

Length

35.6cm

(14in)

Lifespan

Wild 10-20 years

Captive 10-20 years

Diet

Carnivore

Rodent, Frogs, Toads

Conservation Status

IUCN

Vulnerable

The southern hognose snake is the smallest of the hognose snake species with even the largest individuals not exceeding 61cm (24in) long.

They are carnivores which possess a mild-venom which is used to subdue their prey. Frogs and toads are captured and popped using the fangs before being swallowed whole.

Southern hognose snakes are native to the south-eastern United States where they spend much of their time burrowed in to sandy soils.

This species is increasingly threatened by habitat loss, pesticide use, capture for the pet trade and more.

Read on to learn more about these remarkable reptiles.

Appearance

What does the southern hognose snake look like?

The southern hognose snake is named for the slightly upturned snout at the tip of their triangular shaped head.

Males and females are similar in visual appearance with a mostly gray, scale covered body. This is patterned with some black, tan or auburn blotches. On the underside they have lighter colored scales.

Their eye features a round, black pupil.

An average length for this species is 35.6cm (14in) long though some have been recorded at lengths of up to 61cm (24in) long. They weigh 46-120g (1.6-4.2oz). Females are significantly larger than males though males have larger tails.

They are the smallest species of hognose snake.

Diet

What does the southern hognose snake eat?


Southern hognose snakes are carnivores which feed on lizards, rodents, other small animals and on rare occasions invertebrates. A major component of their diet is frogs and toads which are deflated using the fangs.

They will bite their prey and then use a mild-venom to subdue it before swallowing it whole.

Southern Hognose Snake

Credit: Spineback1, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Range

Where can you find the southern hognose snake?

North America is the native home of the southern hognose snake. Here they live along the south-east coastline of the United States. They live in the following states – North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi and Alabama.

Habitat

What kind of environment does the southern hognose snake live in?

They make their home in forest, shrubland and grassland. Records have also been made from abandoned agriculture fields.

Much of their time is spent burrowed in the soil and as such they occur in areas with well-drained, sandy and sandy-loam soils. Where they do not burrow they hide among brush or in a bush.

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Reproduction

How does the southern hognose snake produce its young?

Breeding takes place from May to June across much of the range. In some areas a second breeding season from September to October is observed. Two males will engage in combat known as a dance.

A female may mate with multiple partners during the same breeding season.

Females deposit between 6 and 14 eggs which are incubated for 65-70 days. In one extremely large clutch 42 eggs were recorded. Hatchlings have been recorded to take as long as 60 hours to fully emerge from the egg.

Within an hour of leaving their egg they will shed their skin for the first time. Hatchlings have similar patterning to the adults.

Sexual maturity is achieved between two and three years old.

Behavior

What does the southern hognose snake do with its day?

These animals dig burrows underground where they will spend much of their life. During winter some populations undergo a period of inactivity in their burrow.

Southern Hognose Snake

Credit: Public Domain

Predators and Threats

What is impacting the survival of the southern hognose snake?

Natural predators of the southern hognose snake include larger snakes and birds of prey such as hawks.

Introduced red imported fire ants will prey upon the eggs and hatchlings of the southern hognose snake.

When threatened these reptiles will spread their neck and open the mouth before rolling over to play dead. They will also hiss loudly.

Numbers of this species appear to be declining across their range.

Their numbers have further declined due to habitat loss, vehicle strikes, pesticide application and the persecution of this species by humans due to a perceived risk.

In parts of their range they are collected for the pet trade.

Climate change is anticipated to affect the species through habitat alteration and loss. Increases in fire are expected to impact a number of their preferred habitats.

Quick facts

Their hissing behavior has given rise to alternative common names including the hissing adder, hissing sand snake, puff adder or spreading adder.

Southern Hognose Snake

Credit: Spineback1, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

References

Hammerson, G.A. 2007. Heterodon simusThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2007: e.T63821A12718888. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2007.RLTS.T63821A12718888.en. Downloaded on 03 October 2021.

Climateadaptationexplorer.org. 2021. Southern hognose snake. [online] Available at: <https://climateadaptationexplorer.org/species/reptiles/163> [Accessed 5 October 2021].

Lindsay, A., 2021. Southern Hognose Snake — The Wildlife Society – Florida Chapter. [online] The Wildlife Society – Florida Chapter. Available at: <https://fltws.org/species-spotlight/2020/2/3/southern-hognose-snake> [Accessed 5 October 2021].

Smiley, G. 2017. "Heterodon simus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed October 05, 2021 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Heterodon_simus/

Fws.gov. 2021. Southern hognose snake | U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. [online] Available at: <https://www.fws.gov/southeast/wildlife/reptiles/southern-hognose-snake/> [Accessed 5 October 2021].

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