The southern hog-nosed snake is a small snake with a heavy body. They can easily be distinguished from most other Florida native snakes by their upturned nose. They have grey, tan or reddish coloration with a series of dark blotches down their back and smaller blotches along their sides. Juvenile southern hog-nosed snakes have similar coloration to adults. When fully grown, they range from 18-22 inches long.
The southern hog-nosed snake is sometimes confused with the eastern hog-nosed snake, the dusky pygmy rattlesnake and the short-tailed snake. The southern hog-nosed snake can be distinguished from the eastern hog-nosed snake by having a less upturned snout and a darker belly. They can be distinguished from the dusky pygmy rattlesnake by the appearance of a blunt nose and rattle, which are not present on the southern hog-nosed snake. The short-tailed snake can be distinguished from the southern hog-nosed snake based on its slender body compared to the southern hog-nosed snake’s heavy body.
In the below photos, the similarities and differences between the southern hog-nosed snake (top), dusky pygmy rattlesnake (middle), and short-tailed snake (bottom) can be seen.
Southern Hog-nosed Snake
Dusky Pygmy Rattlesnake
Southern hog-nosed snakes are diurnal and spend most of their time underground. When confronted by a potential threat, these snakes will hiss, flatten their head and neck out and mock strike. Some individuals may even feign death by rolling over with their tongue out and stay in this position for several minutes until the potential threat has passed. These snakes primarily feed on frogs and toads, with a smaller portion of their diet being made up of appropriately sized lizards and small mammals. The southern hog-nosed snake is not a constrictor. They subdue their prey with a weak venom that is not considered dangerous to humans. To help facilitate their toad-heavy diets, these snakes have developed rear fangs to pop and deflate toads for consumption as many toads inflate themselves when threatened by predators. They have also developed an immunity to the poisons of toads.
Southern hog-nosed snakes usually mate in May and June, but mating has been reported from mid-April through August. After mating, females will lay their eggs in shallow burrows. These snakes usually lay 6-19 eggs, which hatch after about sixty days. The eggs are elliptical in shape and have a leathery shell. Eggs are usually laid in July and hatch in September and October. When they first leave the egg, young southern hog-nosed snakes are usually 5-7 inches long. Southern hog-nosed snakes are believed to mature at 2-3 years old and have a maximum lifespan of about 9 years.
Southern hog-nosed snakes are currently found along the Coastal Plain of the Eastern United States, with populations in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. In Florida, they can be found in the Panhandle and northern parts of the peninsula with populations being known to exist in sandy uplands located along the Suwannee River region, Brooksville Ridge, and Eglin Air Force Base area. The preferred habitats of the southern hog-nosed snake include sandhills, dry hammocks, pine flatwoods, sand pine-rosemary scrub, and coastal dune habitats. This species can also sometimes be found in urban areas and farmland when sandy soil is present.
Southern hog-nosed snakes currently face a variety of threats, including:
- Habitat loss and alteration: Changes in land use have greatly decreased southern hog-nosed snake habitat in portions of its range. Fire suppression and fragmentation from roads has caused degradation of their habitats.
- Road mortality: Southern hog-nosed snakes are slow to cross roads, increasing their likelihood of being struck and killed by cars.
- Collection for the pet trade: The rising popularity of this snake in the pet trade has the potential to put pressure on wild populations in areas where these snakes can be collected.
- Invasive species: Declines in populations have been seen in areas where red imported fire ants have been introduced.
Conservation and Management
A status assessment was conducted by the FWC staff on four snake species in Florida, including the southern hog-nosed snake. This assessment helped fill in information on distribution and potential habitat availability throughout the state to help understand declines and threats facing populations of this species.
How to Help
A great way to help the southern hog-nosed snake is by reporting sightings of this snake through the rare snake sightings page on the FWC website. When a snake is encountered, it is always best to leave it alone. By doing so, both people and snakes can be protected from potential harm.