Western Hognose Snake
The western hognose snake is found across a swathe of North America, from northern Mexico to southern Canada. It inhabits the Great Plains region between the Mississippi River in the east and the Rocky Mountains in the west. This region is relatively dry, and the hog-nosed snake spends much of its time burrowing through loose, sandy soil, using its snout as a shovel to excavate soil.
Western hognose snakes hibernate between September and March. Mating occurs soon after the snakes emerge in the spring. Females have multiple mates, and initiate the breeding season by moulting their skins and releasing an odour that attracts the males. About a dozen eggs are laid in soil in late summer, and these hatch just before the winter hibernation.
The snout of this snake is sharply upturned and pointed, so that it resembles a pig's nose. The western hognose snake has three colour forms: brown, grey and tan. These forms closely resemble the eastern and southern hog-nosed species, which also have red forms.
Hog-nosed snakes use their snout to dig up buried toads. Many toads puff themselves up when under attack, so the snakes use their long teeth to puncture the amphibians' body and deflate it. The snakes also have large adrenal glands to break down the toxins that many toads carry in their skin. While toads form the bulk of the diet, frogs, reptiles and their eggs, birds and small mammals are preyed on too. Carrion may also be consumed sometimes.
Distribution: Southern Canada to northern Mexico.
Habitat: Dry prairies and rocky areas.
Food: Mainly toads, plus other small vertebrate prey.
Size: 40 - 100 cm (15.5 - 40 in).
Maturity: 2 years.
Breeding: Eggs laid in summer.
Life span: 14 years.