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Western Hognose Care: How To Care For A Western Hognose Snake

Aside from dogs, cats, and birds, another beautiful creature that makes a good house pet is a Western hognose snake. This reptile is very famous for being a mild-mannered, docile, and low-maintenance animal.

In this article, you’ll get to know more about the Western hognose snake, its biology, care, behavior, and health.

Western Hognose Snake

The Anatomy of Western Hognose Snakes

General Appearance

The Western hognose snake belongs to a distinct family known for its upturned and pointed snouts. They use this anatomical feature to dig and burrow in the soil. Hognose snakes are also known for their thick bodies covered in hardened scales that appear in various color combinations and patterns.

Western Hognose Snake Appearance
Western Hognose Snake Appearance

The usual ground colors of their scales are tan, brown, gray, or olive. And then, across their scales are square blotches or spots arranged either in parallel or longitudinal patterns. These blotches usually come in the colors yellow, white, black, and orange.

The hognose’s belly is covered in a glossy black scale with markings painted in either white, orange, or yellow color.

Expert Tip: As for their size, hognose snakes are relatively small-sized compared to gigantic pythons. Adult males are generally longer than females. Their maximum length can extend to 2 feet up to 3 feet long.

Natural History and Distribution

Based on studies, Western hognose snakes originated in the western regions of America. They thrive especially in the prairies, shrubs, grasslands, sandy plains, semi-deserts, and floodplains. Nowadays, Hognose snakes are widely distributed across the United States and Canadian lands.

Life Span

Western hognose snakes make great pets because they live quite longer than dogs, cats, or birds. On average, a western hognose snake in captivity can survive for 15 up to 20 years.

Behavior and Temperament

Biologically, Western hognose snakes are considered diurnal, which means that the reptile is more active during the day. Some experts say that wild hognoses are crepuscular too. This means that they only come out of their burrows specifically during dawn and dusk to hunt for food.

Another popular trait of hognose snakes is that they are generally passive and docile. This makes the snake very easy to handle and care for. Being a docile species, Western hognose snakes seldomly (even rarely) attack and bite humans.

Although like any animal, they respond to threatening presence by flattening the skin on their necks and making loud hisses. They also strike similar to cobras except that their mouths are closed. Zoologists tag this behavior as a “bluff” to scare their predators away. Biting is never their last resort.

When they are put in lethal positions, they will start thrashing their heads and flipping over to pretend they’re dying. They also emit a foul smell through the anus (sometimes accompanied by fecal matter). Wild hognose snakes even stick their tongue out to make the “play dead” act believable.

It will wait until the threat goes away before it starts moving. Although cannibalism is not an issue for hognose snakes, a fight over resources can ensue and you don’t want that.

Expert Tip: Western hognose snakes are not very sociable with other snakes. They prefer to be alone because they are innately solitary.


You’ll have to familiarize yourself with the breeding patterns of the western hognose snakes If you are interested in breeding the animal. Males reach maturity after a year while females take up approximately 2 years. The mating season generally occurs between March and May.

In some instances, copulation may occur as early as February. But remember that the environment, caging, and the partners must be conditioned appropriately for mating to happen. Females lay their eggs 30-60 days after copulation. On average, they can lay 4-23 eggs that hatch in approximately 9 weeks.

Once they do, make sure that you prepared a nesting box, incubation set-up, and new-hatchling container. After hatching, leave the neonates be. These baby hognose snakes tend to stay together until they undergo their first skin shedding.

Only then can you start feeding them and even determining their sex. Sex determination is relatively easier when the snakes are still newborns.

Caring for a Western Hognose Snake

Taking home a Hognose Snake for the First Time

There are quite a few reminders in caring for and maintaining a Western hognose snake. The first thing you have to do is to allow your new pet to get accustomed to its new home. Avoid holding or bothering the snake for two whole weeks (from the time you brought it home).

Observe it quietly and gently. Once their eating pattern gets more regular, you can start doing handling sessions. But keep in mind that it has to be slow and short. For the first few times, try holding them for just about 5 minutes. From then on, you can extend this time to 1 hour at most. However, keep the sessions to only once a day.

Expert Tip: Moreover, avoid returning them abruptly to their cage. Patiently wait for them to calm down.

Holding a Hognose Snake Properly

The most important thing to do before taking a hognose snake from its cage is to wash your hands. This is both for your and the snake’s safety. By washing your hands, you eliminate the scents of the things you held. This keeps your “human scent” intact, which prevents the snake from mistakenly identifying you as its prey.

Holding a Hognose Snake Properly
Holding a Hognose Snake Properly

At the same time, you are protecting your snake from germs and pathogenic organisms that could make it sick. To hold the snake, gently place your hand on its sides preferably around the belly region. Never hold it in the head or tail parts. Grab the snake softly and then lift it out of the cage.

Keep it close to your body (but away from your face) as you trace its movements with your hands. Wait some more holding sessions before you try petting them by the head.

Expert Tip: Never do holding sessions when the hognose snake is starved or about to shed.

Diet and Water

Another important thing you must meticulously look over is your hognose snake’s diet. These animals are not really picky eaters. The most recommended food for hognose snakes is mice or rats. According to vets, an all mice/rodent diet can supply the complete nutritional requirements of the snake.

Although some owners also feed their western hognose snake with hamsters, chicks, and gerbils. Note these are not as nutritious as mice. Aside from the type of food, you must also consider the size of your pet snake.

Hatchlings must be fed with a well-defrosted pinky mouse every 3-4 days, while adult hognose snakes must be fed with 2-4 bigger rodents preferably once every two weeks. This is to prevent them from being overweight. More importantly, remember to place the food inside the cage using forceps or hemostats in case they strike at the food.

As for hydration, put a water bowl inside the cage and fill it with water regularly. Oftentimes, you’ll see the hognose snake taking a dip into the water bowl. Let them be. Experts explained that this behavior intends to lower their body temperature, especially when they are about to shed.


Keeping a Western Hognose snake requires secured and well-ventilated housing. You can either opt for a regular terrarium or a wooden vivarium. The most important thing is that it can be sealed safely and securely to prevent the snake from escaping. You might also need to consider the size of the snake’s housing.

Since the animal loves burrowing, go for a cage that offers spacious ground. This will allow your snake to move freely and comfortably. Moreover, hatchlings need smaller housing such as a 5-gallon terrarium while the adults need at least the 20-gallon terrarium.


Reptiles like western hognose snakes need a substrate or some sort of bedding to make them more comfortable and at home. For hatchlings, the best and most inexpensive substrate you can use is old newspapers. The newspapers prevent bacterial infection as well as accidental inhalation of dangerous materials.

Old and recycled newspapers still work well for an adult snake. They can absorb any odor from the cage all the while allowing the reptile to dig and burrow. Another great option you can use is shredded aspen bedding. It’s completely non-hazardous and fitting of their natural behavior.

Light and Temperature

Remember that heat plays a vital role in the life and reproduction of reptiles. For western hognose snakes, an adequate amount of light must be supplied to maintain a healthy range of temperature within the housing.

Expert Tip: To further ensure that optimal temperature is always maintained, you can avail of thermostat controllers, heating, and cooling pads that fit well with your snake’s cage.

Experts strongly suggest that the housing of the snake must have a temperature gradient.

One region must have at least 24-28 degrees Celsius and another space with approximately 30–32-degree Celsius. To achieve these optimal temperatures, 14-16 hours of light (per day) during spring and summer must be provided to the cage. In winter and autumn, you can lower the lighting hours to 10.

Hygiene and Maintenance

Like any other pet, it is imperative that you keep them and their surroundings clean. Make sure to remove wastes like fecal matter from the cage regularly. Second, extract, clean, and disinfect everything inside the cage including the substrate, decoration, and water bowl.

Western Hognose Snake Hygiene and Maintenance
Western Hognose Snake Hygiene and Maintenance

Do it as frequently as you can, preferably at least once a week. Lastly, always wash your hands before touching anything from the cage or handling the snake.


Western hognose snakes are not just beautiful animals. They are also wonderful pets. This snake is very lovable and easy to take care of.

So if you have additional questions or fun recommendations, feel happy to comment them down below.

About Rencel Leyran