A Snake’s Way


The prominent, upturned nose and unique color patterns should give it away, but that’s not always likely with the hognose snake. Some surprising first impressions may include a strong resemblance to a cobra. As strange as that sounds, this species will resort to inflating the upper part of its body, raising its head, and flattening its neck if startled or threatened.  This is considered defensive behavior meant to discourage anything from eating them, and hognose snakes are really good at it. Their dramatic spectacle continues on with loud hissing, a smelly secretion, shaking, the appearance of their last meal, and…for the grand finale…they play dead.  Completely harmless to humans (and not venomous), they contribute to ecosystem health by keeping populations like insect pests and rodents in check.  

Toads actually make up most of their diet, and this species has special adaptations like a wide mouth gape to handle them when they “puff” up and a special hormone to deal with strong toad secretions. A fascinating species to have around, hognose snakes mostly live in the Oak Openings region of northwest Ohio, using the sand for burrowing and laying eggs, as well as the tallgrass prairies and savannas for hunting prey.

Metroparks continually creates and maintains habitat in the Oak Openings region for animals like the hognose snake through invasive species removal, prescribed burning, and native plant restoration.  Quality habitats that offer sandy openings for breeding, as well as nearby grassland areas for favorite food sources, are important in sustaining snake populations for the future.