Plains Hognose Care
The Plains Hognose (Heterodon nasicus) is a small species of colubrid found throughout North America. Their range is vast, found as far north as Western Canada and as far south as Texas and Mexico. They attain a length anywhere from 16″ for males, and 30″ for females. One of the most endearing traits of the Western Hognose, is their defense mechanism of “rolling over” and playing dead when they feel threatened. Like harmless garter snakes, the Plains Hognose possess Duvernoy’s gland, which secretes a toxic saliva used to inhibit their prey. While some people may experience a reaction from their saliva, there have been no reports of death caused by a bite.
Western Hognoses are a species that as adults, will utilize larger enclosures if provided with the space and opportunity. Hatchlings being less established, fare well in small, escape proof enclosures during their first year. The smaller space helps them feel invulnurable, making them less likely to go off feeding. A shoebox style container measuring 12″ x 6″ with ventilation is ample space during their first 6 months to one year. Suggested minimum enclosure requirements are everywhere with this species. Some keepers and breeders suggest enclosures ranging from 10 – 20 gallons for one snake. We believe that bigger is always better. While an enclosure with a footprint of 20″ x 12″ is sufficient for an adult male and 24″ x 12″ for an adult female, we enjoy seeing our adults thrive in larger enclosures. We keep our females in enclosures with a 36″ x 18″ footprint, and our males in 24″ x 18″. Provide plenty of hides (paper towel rolls and cork rounds are popular here!) and deep substrate for burrowing to ensure that they feel secure in their surroundings.
Heat and Humidity
As Western Hognoses are found in arid climates, their need for humidity is minimal. However, their need for a heat source is essential for them to digest food and thrive. Humidity should be relatively low at around 40% – 50%, with a humid hide box provided in the enclosure to aid in the shedding process. An ambient temperature ranging from 76 °F – 82° F and a basking spot around 90° F is necessary in order for them to thrive.
Hognoses are solitary creatures that are well known for their cannibalistic tendancies, especially during breeding season. We’ve had an over-ambitious male attempt to eat a female. Because of this, we strongly recommend against cohabitation. It only creates a stressful environment for them, with no room to retreat from their tankmate.