Hognose snakes are endemic to North America and can be easily identified by their turned up rostral scale. The rostral scale is the scale right on the tip maxilla (upper jaw). in Hognose snakes people often call it their nose, though their nostrils are actually a bit behind the rostral scale.
These snakes are terrestrial and use that shovel-like nose to burrow. There are four species of Heterodon, or hognose snake, Eastern Hognose (Heterodon platirhinos), Southern Hognose (Heterodon simus) Western Hognose (Heterodon nasicus), and Mexican Hognose (Heterodon kennerlyi)
Hognose snakes can be intimidating in the wild. When they feel threatened, they may puff up and hiss, flatten their necks like a cobra, and open their wide mouths. If you look closely you may even see their fangs.
If you approach any closer, they may rise partially above the ground and strike at you with a hiss. But the strangest thing of all is what happens next.
If you were to get any closer, the snake would release a musk, and roll over, playing dead.
You may be surprised to learn that snakes in the genus Heterodon are completely harmless to humans.
Even when they strike it is a bluff, where they actually have their mouths closed and just bump you with their rostral scale. It’s pretty funny to be head-butted by a hognose snake!
Hognose snakes are rear fanged venomous. They don’t quite have true venom glands with the muscles to push venom, nor hollow teeth to inject it into their prey. But they do have small opisthoglyphous fangs with a grove channel in the rear of their maxilla and, a Duvernoy’s gland that holds some semi-toxic saliva.
In the wild they prey on amphibians, so their mild venom delivered through the small Opysthoglyphous fangs in the rear of their mouths assist in feeding. They tend to have a special preference from toads and are immune to the toxins they secrete.
I have been bitten by my own Western Hognose Snake, Otis Mojave. It was not a defensive bite; he was just really hungry and my hand happened to be close by. It took a while for him to let go so I was envenomated, and only felt some mild itching and soreness.
The Western Hognose is a common species kept as pets. I care for two, Otis Mojave (right) and Ophelia Fawn (left). It’s so interesting to watch them and compare their morphology with my other snakes of different species.
Sources: Snakesarelong, Britannica, ScienceDirect