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Polk County’s Most Wanted – Eastern Hognose Snake

Have you seen Eastern Hognose Snake?

In a joint effort to expand the knowledge and understanding of the flora and fauna of Polk County, Conserving Carolina and botanist/ecologist David Campbell need your help in locating this month’s “Polk County’s Most Wanted—Animal,” the Eastern Hognose Snake (Heterodon platirhinos).

What is an Eastern Hognose Snake?

Sometimes called puff adders, spreading adder, deaf adder, spread head, sand viper, or puffer belly, Eastern Hognose Snakes are non-venomous, thick-bodied snakes that reach about 46 inches in length. These snakes are easily distinguished by their upturned snouts. Individuals of this species come in a variety of colors ranging from orange with dark blotches, to dark brown with darker blotches, even solid black.

When confronted, Eastern Hognose Snakes will suck in air, spread the skin around their neck and head (like a cobra), hiss, and lunge, pretending to strike. If this trick doesn’t deter an intruder, these snakes will begin to writhe about in “agony” and then come to rest upside down with their mouth open and tongue out, feigning death. Often, these displays alone are enough to identify this species. Despite this fairly convincing show, Eastern Hognose Snakes almost never bite.

Eastern Hognose Snakes are found in the eastern half of the United States, from southern Florida north to central New England, the Great Lakes Region, and some regions of southern Canada. These snakes are found throughout the Carolinas, and their preferred habitats are woodlands with sandy soil, fields, farmland, and coastal areas.

Eastern Hognose Snakes are active during the day and are often seen on roads in the spring and fall. They use their upturned nose to dig for prey. Their diet includes frogs, salamanders, small mammals, birds, and invertebrates; but toads, an item most predators avoid due to strong toxins in the toad’s skin, are their favorite, and almost exclusive, food source. These snakes are equipped with large teeth in the back of their mouths (called rear fangs) that are used to puncture inflated toads so that they can be more easily swallowed.

What can you do?

If you think that you have seen Eastern Hognose Snake in Polk County, please send photos, questions, or comments to Pam Torlina at Conserving Carolina by email at pam@conservingcarolina.org, so we can document its occurrence in Polk County.

For more information:

See more about “Polk County’s Most Wanted.” Download and print a “Pocket Guide” with all of the “Most Wanted” plants, animals, and habitats that you can be on the lookout for when you’re out in the field!

A Biological Inventory of Polk County

Now available for purchase on Amazon or free download: “An Inventory of the Significant Natural Areas of Polk County, North Carolina,” a culmination of David Campbell’s seven years in the field documenting the rare and significant flora and fauna in Polk County.

Conserving Carolina, your local land trust, is dedicated to protecting land and water, promoting good stewardship, and creating opportunities for people to enjoy nature. Learn more and become a member at conservingcarolina.org.

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