Why Is Your Hognose Snake Playing Dead And Other Fun Facts For Kids! | Kidadl


Why Is Your Hognose Snake Playing Dead And Other Fun Facts For Kids!

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Heterodon is a species of benign colubrid snakes that are only found in North America.

Hognose snakes have thick bodies and upturned noses and are most recognized for their unique intimidation behaviors. There are now three species of this animal that have been recognized across the world.

The hognose snake is a dangerous predator who is notorious for putting on a show when disturbed by anyone. This includes loud hissing and spreading of its neck like a cobra. Hognose snakes might not bite during this display of aggressive behavior but do tend to strike the person several times. Unlike various other snakes, these animals are regarded as venomous not because of their fangs but because of their saliva. In order to feign their death, these predators engage in a unique behavior, flatten their necks and engage in loud hissing.

After you have read about the hognose snakes and their behavior of playing dead, be sure to also read our answers to do all snakes lay eggs and how to identify a copperhead snake? here on Kidadl.

Why is the hognose called a zombie snake?

The zombie snake is so named because it employs an unusual self-defense tactic of pretending to be dead. These predators don't have any venom. A lot of people think Heterodon species are venomous, and their breath contains venom, but this is not true at all.

Hognose snakes screech aggressively and stretch their spines like cobras whenever provoked. During one of these demonstrations, these predators rarely bite, but the Heterodon species can strike constantly.  When other protection tactics fail, the hognose snake will often play dead. If the aggressor persists, the hognose snake will drop its jaws, flip around on its back, and writhe about, feigning death. When rolled onto its tummy, it promptly rolls back onto its back.

Do all hognose snakes play dead?

The color scheme of the eastern hognose could be yellow, grayish, brown, olive, or black, and it is frequently marked with huge, oblong dots across the midline of the body that mimic eyespots. These snakes are common in the wild and are usually brown or gray in color with blotches that are dark brown.

Hognoses' surfaces are keeled, and the bottom of the tails is significantly lighter than the remainder of the venter. Females of this species have a delicate gradient to the tail's end, whereas males have a little swelling around the cloaca and the tail subsequently tapers off dramatically. When threatened, the hognose snake will inhale in air, stretch its skin over its neck and head, hiss loudly, and spring as if to strike. The heterodox species will eventually feign death, lying upturned, and opening their jaws wide to convince predators that it really is dead.

an essential component of their survival in the wild

Why do hognose snakes play dead?

It's not a party trick or taught behavior to play dead for a hognose snake; it's instinct. This indicates that it has been imprinted in their behavior since birth and is an essential component of their survival in the wild.

As a result, these reptiles only pretend to be dead if they truly believe their life is in danger and it is the only way to avoid being eaten. According to this logic, it is technically conceivable to scare a confined hognose snake into playing dead by convincing it that its life is in jeopardy. If none of their techniques succeed, these reptiles possess one more trick up their sleeve: rollover and release nasty odors from their cloaca.

Can you train your hognose snake to play dead?

The poison of North American hognose snakes (H. Nasicus) is classed as 'rear-fanged poisonous,' but it is quite innocuous to people. Western hognoses will exhibit a variety of defense actions when confronted.

These reptiles may blow up their body, hiss loudly, compress their ribs to resemble a cobra hood, and attack with their mouth closed. If these behaviors are unsuccessful, the western hognose will roll over and push its tongue forward. This reptile will squirm around, pretending to be dead. It's not a party trick or taught behavior to play dead for a hognose snake; it's intuition.

This shows that it has been imprinted in the behavior of H. Nasicus since birth and is an essential component of their survival in the wild. Even though it can be made to play dead if you make it feel scared or threatened, you should not treat your pet in such a way and let it live peacefully.

How do you know whether your hognose snake is playing dead or actually is?

If you see your eastern hognose snake faced upside down with its mouth open and tongue out, it could be playing dead.

You need not worry about this behavior as it is quite common amongst wild animals to learn a few tricks that can help them fool predators by acting as dead. To check if it actually is dead or not, try turning it back on its stomach with a stick. If it turns on its back again, then you have nothing to worry about; it is only playing dead. If it doesn’t turn back, then your pet snake might actually be dead.

How To Properly Handle A Hognose Snake

A hognose snake is an interesting pet, but it must be properly cared for in order to have a long and healthy lifestyle.

Trying to make sure your snake has sufficient lighting and warmth, as well as a large enough tank, is part of mastering the fundamentals of caring for an eastern hognose snake. They don't get very large, and in fact, are relatively small when compared to other snake species, and therefore, they don't need a huge reptile tank in order to thrive and be happy.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for hognose snake playing dead, then why not take a look at how long do corn snakes live or Hognose Snake Facts.


The Kidadl Team is made up of people from different walks of life, from different families and backgrounds, each with unique experiences and nuggets of wisdom to share with you. From lino cutting to surfing to children’s mental health, their hobbies and interests range far and wide. They are passionate about turning your everyday moments into memories and bringing you inspiring ideas to have fun with your family.

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