I think this is a snake that confuses a lot of people. Once when I was working at a small nature center in eastern NY state, we got a call one day from a woman who swore she had a King Cobra! in her front yard. After her description, I said it seemed super unlikely it was a King Cobra and that it was one of our native snakes, called a Hognose Snake. When threatened, this snake has a handful of defense tactics, including flattening its head and neck and hissing. This mannerism can get the poor snake mislabeled and killed when in fact, it is not a harmful snake and is not aggressive.
This picture shows one of North Carolina’s native–and non-venemous– snakes–the Hognose. Color in this snake is highly variable, from the lovely copper and black color shown here, to another version I photographed at Dupont State Park that was all black. And the cloudy eyes? This means the snake is getting ready to shed its skin. In this state it is more vulnerable and will generally lay low, but sometimes that becomes impossible.
The Hognose snake might flatten its head and look mean, but in the next second, if that doesn’t seem to work, it might also roll onto its back, stick out its tongue and make like it’s dead! The most amusing thing about this is the snake will keep on doing it, even when you pick it up or touch it. It will roll back onto its back and put on a good show for as long as you are watching. Total opposite strategies intended to achieve the same results: escape from a potential predator.
Do you know what this snake’s favorite food is? Or how you can distinguish it from a poisonous snake? I will answer those questions and more on Monday in my Weekly Creature Feature. Check back to learn more about this beautiful snake.