Eastern Hog-nosed Snake

Heterodon platirhinos

IdentificationPhoto by Matt Pierle

The Eastern Hog-nosed Snake is a relatively short, fat snake. It is thick-bodied in proportion to its overall length. It ranges from 20-33 inches in length as an adult.

The hog-nosed snake gets its name from the upturned snout that is composed of a sharp-edged, three-sided scale. This is also one its best field marks.

The body color is highly variable. Lighter-colored snakes could be orange to brown with dark brown or black irregular blotches similar to a young Common Watersnake or perhaps a Timber Rattlesnake. Dark snakes could be almost entirely olive-green or black on the back.

The underside of the chin is snow white. The belly is a cream to tawny tan color. The underside of the tail is pink. The scales of this species are keeled giving the snake a slightly rough feel. When threatened, the snake may flatten its head and anterior ribs and give the appearance of a cobra. Another defense mechanism used by the snake is feigning death. It does this by flipping onto its back with its mouth open, its tongue hanging out, and blood leaking from membranes within its mouth.

Records in Vermont of Heterodon platirhinos (Eastern Hog-nosed Snake)

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Range/Habitat

Dry areas with sandy soils are the preferred habitat for the Eastern Hog-nosed Snake. It hunts for amphibians (primarily toads) along the edges of swamps, bogs, and marshes. This snake can be seen in meadows and grasses along rivers, beaches, and railroad tracks. It also can be found in open pine or deciduous forests.

Status

The Eastern Hog-nosed Snake is a hypothetical species in Vermont. This snake was first photographed in Vermont in 2009. There are a total of three photo-verified reports of this snake in the last twenty years from Vermont and eight other unverified reports. Two of the three reports accompanied by photos come from Vernon. These photographs are of two young snakes found about 2 miles apart in the same year.  Nearby reports from New York State have come from towns bordering Sandgate and Fair Haven, Vermont. Nearby reports from Massachusetts come from towns bordering Vernon. Although this is a good sign that there may be a breeding population in the state, there have been no confirmed records of adult snakes yet in Vermont. With a few photographed records of adult snakes, the Eastern Hog-nosed Snake can possibly be moved onto the confirmed species list of snakes in Vermont. Please report all sightings of this species in Vermont. Take photos if possible!

Additional Photos

Photo by Jay Plotkin  Photo by Kiley Briggs  Photo by Jay Plotkin  Photo by Kiley Briggs

More Info

Species summary written by Michael Iacchetta.

In the Media

Garofalo, Chris. 2009. Vernon Family Finds Rare Snake in Vermont. Brattleboro Reformer (October 12, 2009). Available as text-only PDF printed from Reformer.com site (accessed October 16, 2009).

Mitchell, Tom. 2009. Rare Snake Discovered in Vernon. Rutland Herald (October 12, 2009). Available as text-only PDF printed from Rutland Herald site (accessed October 16, 2009).