I’ve always loved snakes and one of my favorites has always been the Hog-nosed Snake. Maybe it’s the cute little turned up nose or the perpetual smile it seems to give the snake that appeals to me. Or maybe it is the elaborate display they often perform beginning with flattened neck, hissing and faux strikes. The snake is not really trying to look like a cobra; he’s never seen one either. But looking larger and fiercer than you really are sometimes works. If that fails, an all-out death scene that rivals any Shakespearean play is the next ploy. Rolling on its back with tongue out and cloaca emptied, the Hog-nosed Snake is the picture of a really most sincerely dead snake. In fact, flip it over right side up, and it will turn back over as if to assure you it is dead. Hognose snakes kept in captivity usually learn quickly to dispense with all the theatrics, but we had a teaching animal at the nature center in Texas I where I worked that we nicknamed “Dustin Hognose” for his persistent excellence in the field of acting.
Hog-nosed Snakes feed on toads despite a toad’s formidable defense mechanisms. A toad’s first defense is to inflate itself to make it difficult to swallow. But the Hog-nosed Snake has a “puncture tooth” in the rear of its mouth that pops the toad like a balloon. Defense number one defeated. But many toads secrete digitaloid (a toxin that slows the heart to the point of death in small animals including dogs) when attacked. Enter the Hog-nosed Snake’s enlarged adrenal gland and increased adrenaline to counter the effects of the toxin. The snake even secretes a toxin of its own from the Duvonuy’s organ, a modified salivary gland, which immobilizes the squirming toad. Technically you could call the Hog-nosed Snake a rear-fanged venomous snake although few people have ever experienced the mild discomfort of Hog-nosed Snake venom. Somehow this fact did not comfort my mother when she met a Hog-nosed Snake coming out of my bedroom many years ago. He was forced to move out to the garage and I was lucky not to be forced to move with him.