Monday, September 7, 2009

Wild Fact #988 - The Grateful Dead (Hognose Snake)

We have heard of the the expression "playing possum" in relation to the opossums' incredible behaviour of playing dead.  In my opinion this next animal takes it one step further.

The hognose snake has two different techniques for defending against potential predators.  The first will be an aggressive attack similar to that of the cobra.  It will flatten its neck and raise its head off the ground while hissing and making bluff attacks.  If this doesn't work for the hognose snake then they implement "Plan B" (and nothing sounds better than a Plan B).  As I alluded too in my opening line, the hognose snake will play possum, but to the extreme.  If the predator isn't phased by the aggressiveness of the hognose snake then it decides to switch gears by rolling onto its back and playing dead.  Since the hognose snake takes pride in its acting, it will often release a strong musk (that smells similar to a decaying corpse) as well as hang its tongue out of their mouth, which will often have drops of blood on it.  Once the predator is looking away, the snake will resurrect and make its escape.  I would think this would leave the predator pretty confused when it looks back at the supposedly dead snake.

Next time, instead of using the old, boring saying "playing possum", try mixing it up a little and saying "playing hognose".

Did you find this fact interesting?  Did you already know this about hognose snakes? Have any questions that you would like answered? Let me know!

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  1. Hi Nathan:

    This is quite interesting since we just received a brochure from Uncle Bob concerning the "Wasaga Beach Provincial Park Eastern Hognose Snake Research Program". They are studying them by capturing, measuring, photographing and radio tagging them. The larger ones are implanted with radio transmitters while the smaller ones are injected with a microchip for identification purposes. This allows them to daily track and map them. They would like the public to report any sightings to the Wasaga Beach Provincial Park office at 705-429-2516. They are also a protected species. Just a little bit of info. in case your Ontario viewers happen to come across one.


  2. I've never even heard of this snake, but it's definitely one of the more interesting.
    Aunt Bev

  3. Interesting information on the Wasaga Beach Provincial Park Research Program. Conservation, protection and research is an integral part of any wildlife management program so I would encourage Ontario readers to report any hognose snake sightings. More information on this program can be found at: