University of Massachusetts Amherst

Snake of Massachusetts

Snakes of Massachusetts

Eastern Hognose Snake

Heterodon platirhinos (20-33", up to 45")
Illegal to harass, kill, collect or possess in MA.

A thick-bodied snake with an upturned snout, the hognose snake is extremely variable in appearance. Generally a well-patterned snake, its background color can be yellow, gray, pinkish brown, olive or black, patterned with large rectangular spots down the middle of the back alternating with dark spots on each side. Occasionally the pattern is obscured by overall dark coloration. Individuals of this species may appear all black. Body scales are keeled and the underside of the tail is usually lighter than the rest of the belly.

Most matings take place in the spring. Females typically deposit 15-25 eggs in a depression under rocks or logs, in sandy soil, or in mulch piles. Eggs deposited in June and July hatch in August and September.

Sandy soils are an essential habitat characteristic for hognose snakes. These snakes can be found in sandy woodlands, fields, farmland and coastal areas. Toads are their preferred prey, although frogs, salamanders, small mammals, birds and invertebrates are also taken. Hognose snakes appear to be immune to poisons produced by toads, and are equipped with large teeth in the back of their mouths, apparently to puncture inflated toads so that they may be more easily swallowed. Many of these harmless snakes are killed by people who are convinced that they are venomous and dangerous. When confronted, the hognose snake will suck in air, spread the skin around its head and neck like a cobra, hiss, and lunge as if to strike. Despite this rather convincing show, hognose snakes almost never bite. They will often feign death if provoked enough.

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