The Western hognose is a harmless, stout bodied, small colubrid from North America, found throughout the Great Plains states from Canada to Mexico. There is some debate as to whether they are mildly venomous or nonvenomous with toxic saliva; whatever the case, they are not at all dangerous. As well as being disinclined to bite – they rely mainly on bluff displays to alarm predators – they are rear fanged, which means that the longer teeth are placed well back in the mouth where it is very hard for them to reach your skin. Most people will not react at all to a bite, some will experience some itching and swelling at the site of the bite; obviously, if you are allergic to any kind of venom (such as bee or wasp stings) it’s probably best to keep a different species.
Females are considerably larger than males, growing up to 90cm (3′), although 60cm (2′) is more common. Males average half of this!
They are mainly diurnal in the wild, and eat a varied diet comprising mainly of amphibians and lizards, with the occasional rodent for variety. In captivity they are happy to eat defrost rodents, although sometimes hatchlings do require strips of fish to get them started. It is then a fairly simple task to transfer them to rodent prey.
In order to defend themselves from predators they have a wide range of display behaviours. They have a very loud hiss, and will puff themselves up to look larger than they are; they also flatten their heads like a cobra, rattle their tails like a rattlesnake, and if all else fails they play dead!
If you’re looking for a small snake that’s a little bit different but has bags of personality, the Western Hognose might just be the snake for you.