Western Hognose Snake Care, Enclosure, Size & Behavior

The Western Hognose Snake, also known as the Prairie Hognose or Plains Hognose, is a fascinating reptile native to central North America. These small venomous snakes possess a unique set of characteristics that set them apart from other species. With their distinctive checkered pattern and upturned rostral bone that creates a scooped nose, Western Hognose Snakes are not only visually striking but also possess a range of interesting behaviors.

One remarkable trait of these snakes is their acting skills. Western Hognose Snakes are known for their ability to play dead, hood up like a cobra, and even false strike, earning them the nickname ‘faux vipers.’ Despite their venomous nature, their venom is relatively mild and poses minimal danger to humans. However, it can be more harmful to their preferred prey, such as frogs, toads, lizards, and small rodents.

As pets, Western Hognose Snakes are ideal for beginners due to their calm temperament and ease of care. This article will provide a comprehensive guide on Western Hognose Snake care, enclosure setup, size, behavior, and more, ensuring that both novice and experienced snake enthusiasts can provide the best possible care for these captivating reptiles.

Key Takeaways

  • Western Hognose snakes have a gentle attitude and are great pets for beginners.
  • They have a distinct checkered pattern and keeled scales.
  • They can display a variety of defensive behaviors, including playing dead and false striking.
  • They require a specific enclosure with rocks, sticks, hides, and a sand-soil mix substrate, as well as appropriate temperature and humidity levels.


The Western Hognose Snake, also known as Prairie Hognose, Plains Hognose, Texas Hog, and North American Puff Adder, is a small venomous snake native to central North America. It is characterized by its distinct checkered pattern, keeled scales, and an upturned rostral bone that creates a scooped nose.

The Western Hognose Snake has a lifespan of up to 20 years if kept correctly. In terms of reproduction and growth, baby Western Hognose snakes are oviparous and hatch from clutches of 12 to 15 eggs with their adult coloration and pattern.

When it comes to health and common issues, Western Hognose Snakes are generally hardy and do not have many health problems. However, they can be prone to respiratory infections if kept in excessively damp or dirty conditions. Regular tank cleaning is important to lower the risk of mold or pests.

Physical Characteristics

Characterized by their distinct checkered pattern and keeled scales, these small venomous reptiles native to central North America possess rear fangs that produce mild venom in their saliva. Western Hognose Snakes have a unique appearance that sets them apart from other snake species. Their color patterns can vary, but they typically have a combination of brown, tan, and black markings. Some individuals may have a reddish or orange hue as well.

The checkered pattern on their body consists of alternating light and dark scales, giving them a striking and eye-catching look. Additionally, their scales are keeled, meaning they have a ridge down the center which adds texture to their skin. These physical characteristics contribute to the Western Hognose Snake’s overall charm and make them a popular choice among reptile enthusiasts.

  • Western Hognose Snakes have distinct checkered patterns on their bodies
  • Their color patterns typically consist of brown, tan, and black markings
  • Their scales are keeled, adding texture to their skin.

Habitat and Behavior

Habitat and behavior of these small venomous reptiles native to central North America are influenced by factors such as their natural environment and instinctual behaviors. Western Hognose Snakes have adapted to thrive in various habitats, including grasslands, prairies, desert scrub, and sandy areas.

Their burrowing habits are a prominent feature of their behavior, as they have a specialized scooped nose that aids in digging and navigating underground. These snakes are known to spend a significant amount of time hiding or burrowing underground, coming out during dawn and dusk to forage for food.

Their burrowing behavior also serves as a means of thermoregulation, allowing them to seek shelter from extreme temperatures. Western Hognose Snakes have a calm temperament and are generally docile, making them suitable pets for beginners.

Feeding and Diet

Feeding habits of Western Hognose Snakes include a preference for amphibians in their natural habitat, while in captivity they can be fed frozen-thawed rodents, with a diet that should be appropriately sized for the snake’s age and size.

When it comes to feeding techniques, Western Hognose Snakes are known to strike and constrict their prey. They use their venom to immobilize and digest their prey, which primarily consists of frogs, toads, lizards, and small rodents.

It is important to provide a varied diet to ensure the snake receives all the necessary nutrients. The nutritional needs of Western Hognose Snakes can be met by offering a variety of prey items, including mice, rats, and chicks. It is crucial to appropriately size the prey to prevent regurgitation or other digestive issues.

The frequency of feeding will depend on the snake’s age and size, with hatchlings typically fed every 5-7 days, while adults may only require feeding every 10-14 days.

Enclosure Setup

One important aspect of creating an appropriate living environment for Western Hognose Snakes is providing a suitable substrate that consists of a sand-soil mix using organic, fertilizer and perlite free topsoil and children’s play sand. This type of substrate mimics their natural habitat and allows for burrowing, which is an important behavior for these snakes.

When setting up the enclosure for a Western Hognose Snake, it is also important to include various enclosure decorations. Rocks, sticks, and hides should be provided to create hiding spots and opportunities for climbing. Additionally, a flat rock should be included for basking. These decorations not only provide a more naturalistic environment for the snake, but also help to create a sense of security.

It is crucial to ensure that the enclosure is properly cleaned and maintained to prevent the growth of mold or the presence of pests.

Temperature and Humidity

Moving on to the current subtopic of temperature and humidity, it is important to create an environment within the enclosure that closely mimics the Western Hognose snake’s natural habitat.

Maintaining appropriate temperature and humidity levels is crucial for their overall health and well-being. The recommended humidity range for these snakes is between 30% and 50%. To achieve this, it is advisable to provide a water dish and mist the enclosure occasionally.

In terms of heating options, it is best to utilize a thermostat-controlled ceramic heat emitter to maintain the proper temperature gradient. The daytime basking area should be kept at a temperature of 90°F to 95°F, while the ambient temperatures on the cool side should be around 70°F, and on the hot side, between 80°F and 85°F.

It is important to avoid under-the-tank heating mats due to the need for deep substrate in the enclosure. By carefully regulating the temperature and humidity levels, you can ensure a comfortable and healthy environment for your Western Hognose snake.

Handling and Care

When it comes to the handling and care of these small venomous reptiles, it is important to note that Western Hognose snakes have a calm temperament and high tolerance for handling, making them suitable for beginners, with only rare instances of aggression reported. An interesting statistic to consider is that Western Hognose snakes have a lifespan of up to 20 years if kept correctly, making them a long-term commitment for reptile enthusiasts.

Some snake care tips for handling Western Hognose snakes include:

  • Approach the snake calmly and confidently to avoid startling it.
  • Support the snake’s body and avoid squeezing or putting pressure on its delicate frame.
  • Regularly handle the snake to help keep it socialized and used to human interaction.
  • Always wash your hands before and after handling the snake to prevent the transfer of bacteria or parasites.

By following these reptile handling and snake care tips, owners can ensure a positive and enriching experience with their Western Hognose snakes.

Cost and Popular Alternatives

The cost of purchasing a Western Hognose snake can range from $175 to $250, with certain morphs like the Lavender morph costing as much as $1,200. While Western Hognose snakes are popular pets due to their gentle nature and unique behaviors, they may not be affordable for everyone.

Fortunately, there are several alternative snake species that are more budget-friendly. Corn Snakes, for example, are a popular choice for beginner snake owners due to their docile temperament and wide range of colors and patterns.

Kenyan Sand Boas are another affordable option known for their small size and low maintenance requirements.

Garter Snakes are also cost-effective and are known for their active and inquisitive nature.

These alternatives offer snake enthusiasts the opportunity to enjoy the joys of snake ownership without breaking the bank.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Western Hognose snakes be kept in a multi-species enclosure with other reptiles or amphibians?

Western hognose snakes should not be kept in a multi-species enclosure with other reptiles or amphibians. It is not recommended to cohabitate them due to their specific care requirements, potential aggression towards other species, and the risk of transmitting diseases.

How often should the substrate in the snake’s enclosure be replaced?

The frequency of substrate replacement for western hognose snakes depends on factors such as cleanliness, odor, and mold. Suitable substrates, such as a sand-soil mix, should be used to provide a natural environment for the snake.

Are Western Hognose snakes prone to any specific health issues or diseases?

Western hognose snakes are generally healthy and not prone to any specific health issues or diseases. However, like all reptiles, they can be susceptible to respiratory infections, parasites, and bacterial or fungal infections if their enclosure is not properly maintained and their husbandry needs are not met. Regular veterinary check-ups and proper care can help prevent these health issues.

Can Western Hognose snakes swim or do they require a water dish for soaking?

The swimming ability of Western Hognose snakes is limited, and they do not require a water dish for soaking. However, providing a shallow water dish for drinking and occasional soaking can contribute to their overall well-being.

Are there any specific plants or decorations that should be avoided in the snake’s enclosure?

Snake friendly plants and safe enclosure decorations are important for creating a suitable environment for Western Hognose snakes. It is recommended to avoid plants that are toxic to snakes or have sharp edges. Decorations should be secure and not pose any risk of injury to the snake.

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