This is Harley, the latest addition to my snake collection. (Hey Elaine, where are you going? E? Come back, its just a photo. Remember, snakes need love too!!!!).
Harley is a captive-born western hognose (Heterodon nasicus), and he's probably about 8 to 9 inches long right now --- no formal SVL measurement so far. Initially fed live pinkies, he has quickly/easily converted to frozen/thawed. I know the photo's not great, but isn't he cool? You can probably tell from the photo that he has an upturned snout - he uses this to dig in soils, and if in the wild, to excavate a toad or two (yum).
So why a western hognose? Well, since I'm a sucker for a list, here are the primary reasons:
- Everything I read about them indicated that they are a species that does well in captivity.
- They don't get too large, so a huge tank is not necessary.
- Their temperament is supposed to be pretty relaxed.
- Their color and patterns make 'em a pretty good looking species.
- This species has some pretty cool defense mechanism which make them particularly interesting.
So far everything I have read about this species seems accurate. Harley seems to have manged the transition to his new home pretty seamlessly. He is very relaxed when handled, and shows no aggression. He's feeding regularly now, which is reassuring. So, things look good so far.
So what are its defense mechanisms? Well, when agitated it may spread out its head and neck, not exactly like a cobra, but more like a little junior cobra-wannabe. And it may hiss audibly, and false strike repeatedly. Harley did all of this the first time I tried to feed him - pretty impressive display for such a little guy. Now, what Harley hasn't done is play dead ... I think this is a hognose's most intriguing behavior. I've seen it with eastern hognose in the wild, and it is really something. When disturbed, the snake may flip over on its back, wiggle around a bit, flop its tongue out, and maybe even excrete on itself. I'm not sure how effective this is in discouraging predators, but it is convincing ... unless of course you start to walk away, at which point it flips back over and resumes its snake stuff. If you return to it, it may again flop back over and go back through the routine. "Look at me, see how dead I am? And dude, can't you smell me? You should probably leave me alone" Isn't nature cool?!?!