The Western Hognose snake (Heterodon nasiscus ) naturally lives in most areas of the United States as well as southern Canada and the upper part of Mexico. Their name comes from their slightly upturned snout that they use for burrowing and digging.
Correct temperature, lighting, and humidity are essential to keeping all snakes. The western Hognose is no expedition. They are a diurnal species and therefore require the full spectrum of light. They will need light for 14-16 hours a day during the spring and summer and 10 during the fall and winter. This can be achieved with a UVB bulb. For heating, it is recommended that you use an under the tank heating pad. Make sure that the snake has a proper basking spot on the hot side with a temperature around 90° F (32.2° C) during the day. On the cool side, the temperature should be 70°-79° F (21.1°-26.1° C). Night time temperature should fall to around 75° F (23.9° C). Avoid anything that promotes too much humidity. They come from a semi-arid climate so their humidity level should reflect that.
Housing your hognose is not difficult. They grow to a manageable 24 inches long with a pretty stout body. Babies are easily kept in 10-gallon tanks and full-sized adults can be comfortably kept in 20-gallon tanks. All of which are widely available.
Hognoses are naturally burrowers and it is important to keep that in mind when shopping for proper substrate. Paper towels are a good substrate for hatchling and younger snakes. For older snakes, a loose substrate that is easy to burrow in like aspen shavings is best. They will probably take advantage of this if provided it.
Keep in mind sand does not provide a good substrate for most reptile as it can lead to impaction as it gets trapped in the gut. Also do not use pine or cedar ever as they can cause respiratory damage and eventually death to reptiles. Two hides, one for cool and one for the warm side, are strongly recommended.
Hognoses can be a challenge to feed if they have not already been acclimated to rodents. In the wild, they mainly feed on toads, frogs, lizards, and eggs. With some work, they can be taught to take small frozen-thawed rodents. When feeding your hognose make sure the prey item is only as wide as the widest part of the snake. If done correctly there will be a slight lump for the day of feeding. This should be done at least once a week.
Fresh water also has to be available in a water dish and should be changed every day or every other day.
Often times if the Western Hognose feels threatened the snake will use a variety of tactics in order to defend themselves. The most common of which they will flatten their bodies to appear much larger. In conjunction with this, they will poof out their hood on their necks and rear back to appear threatening. If this fails they will bluff strike at a perceived predator. If all of this false they may bite. However, most often they will release a foul smelling musk as they pretend to die.
This non-aggressive nature makes the Hognose Snake a very mild tempered pet. They can be handled very easily with very little risk of a strike.
Should You Get A Western Hognose?
The Western Hognose is easily manageable in both size and temperament. They are not quick to bite defensively although they tend to be aggressive feeders. Their husbandry is not very complicated and they are definitely one of the cutest snakes. They also are very active during the daytime if you like to see the snake exploring. Also because of increased interest in the pet trade, they can be found in a variety of morphs and can be found with many interesting colors and patterns. Also since the housing needs are not very much they are great for those keepers who are short on space.
Required items for Western Hognose care (Click links for our reviews of recommendations):
- Enclosure: 10-20 gallon
- Heat source
- 2 Hides
- Water Dish
- Substrate that can be used for burrowing and does not keep in moisture
This is not an all-inclusive list but basic necessities to successfully keep this snake