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New Jersey Endangered and Threatened Species Field Guide


Image of Eastern hognose snake.Zoom+ Eastern hognose snake. Photo courtesy of Thomas W. Gorman.

Eastern hognose snake

Heterodon platirhinos

Species Group: Reptile

Conservation Status

State: Special Concern

 


IDENTIFICATION

This heavy-bodied snake gets its name from its upturned snout. It grows to a length of 20 to 45 ½ inches. The typical base color varies from golden to rusty to gray, with a pattern of brown or black blotches. There is great variability in color and pattern, with some individuals having very little patterning and appearing entirely black. The underside is mottled on a yellow, light gray, or pinkish background, with the tail portion noticeably lighter than the rest of the underside. Scales are keeled and the anal plate is divided.

When threatened, hognose snakes may use one or more different defenses such as: hissing and/or spreading their head and neck out to appear more menacing. As a last resort, they may stick out their tongue and roll over, pretending to be dead. They may even emit a foul smelling odor, to convince any would-be predators that they are rotting.

Image of Range of the eastern hognose snake in New Jersey.Zoom+ Range of the eastern hognose snake in New Jersey.

DISTRIBUTION AND HABITAT

The eastern hognose snake can be found throughout the eastern U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains from Minnesota in the northwest to New Hampshire in the northeast and as far south as southern Florida. They are also found within the southern-most part of Ontario This species can be found in all 21 counties within New Jersey.

Preferred habitat includes wooded upland hills, forest edges, fields and woodland meadows, barrier islands, river valleys, and various other habitats with loose or sandy soil and amphibian prey.

DIET

The hognose snake eats mostly amphibians, especially toads. They will also eat other kinds of small vertebrates, such as frogs, and rarely invertebrates.

LIFE CYCLE

This snake is usually active from late April to November. Between 4 - 61 eggs are laid in a nest a few inches below the ground surface or in rotting wood, usually between May and August. The eggs hatch in 39-65 days. They overwinter in burrows (made by other wildlife or made by themselves) or under rocks of talus slopes.

CURRENT STATUS, THREATS, AND CONSERVATION

In 2016, the New Jersey Endangered and Nongame Advisory Committee recommended a Special Concern status for this species within the state, but no formal rule proposal has been filed to date. The Special Concern status is largely due to population declines and habitat loss. Reasons for the decline in their population are loss of habitat, illegal capture for the pet trade, road mortality, and direct killing. This species, like many snakes, has an undeserved bad reputation and they are often killed, which is illegal in New Jersey.

For hognose snakes, another threat is the decreasing populations of the amphibians which they feed on. Toad and frog populations in the state are threatened by disease and habitat loss, causing hognose snakes to have more difficulty finding enough prey.

HOW TO HELP

The Endangered and Nongame Species Program would like for individuals to report their sightings of eastern hognose snakes. Record the date, time, location, and condition of the animal and submit the information by submitting a Sighting Report Form. The information will be entered into the state’s natural heritage program, commonly referred to as Biotics. Biologists map the sighting and the resulting maps “allow state, county, municipal, and private agencies to identify important wildlife habitats and protect them in a variety of ways. This information is used to regulate land-use within the state and assists in preserving endangered and threatened species habitat remaining in New Jersey.”


Text written by Mike Davenport in 2016.


REFERENCES

  • NatureServe. 2015. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available http://explorer.natureserve.org. (Accessed: August 6, 2015).
  • Schwartz, Vicki and D.M. Golden. 2002. Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of New Jersey. New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife.
Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
    Phylum: Chordata
       Class: Reptilia
          Order: Squamata
             Family: Colubridae
                Genus: Heterodon
                   Species: H. platirhinos

Find Related Info: Reptiles, Special concern

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Download the complete list of New Jersey's Endangered, Threatened, & Special Concern species.