Buckeye Herps Blog

A photographic journal of the reptiles and amphibians of Ohio, Michigan and other places interesting wildlife call home.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Snake Swine

Hognose snakes, Heterodon platirhinos, are where and when you find them...

A Cincinnati Heterodon

Unfortuantely for me, I haven't found one in a few years now. Herping is much like fishing, hunting, birding, etc in that if you spend some time to learn about your subject, you usually can position yourself to be in the right place at the right time to roll the dice and hope you get lucky. Heterodon have been one animal that I just haven't had a ton of luck doing that with. Sure, I know they primarily eat toads, and therefore are attracted to sandy soils, flood plains and generally places with an abundance of toads. Like other snakes, they tend to be more active in the spring and seem to be primarily diurnal. You can find them under tin, walking habitat, crossing roads or just basking. I think I have a pretty good gestalt for hog habitat, but things just haven't been going my way lately.

Perfect place for some swine snakes

Why am I so bothered by this?? Heterodon are pretty darn cool.

They have an upturned nose, perfect for digging and burrowing. When toads inflate themselves in a defensive manner, the hog just pops them with specially enlarged rear teeth. And best of all, when they feel threatened, they put on a hell of show. They writhe around, roll over, and then they really sell the "dead" thing by opening their mouths and letting their tongue hang out. This is comical, believe me.

You roll them back, and their body miraculously reverts to the dead position again. I can not possibly imagine what evolutionary advantage this behavior has, but I love it every time. Until you actually try to take a picture. You better get comfortable - crack open a beer, put your feet up and really chill out because you are in for the long haul.

I was seeing one or two individuals a year previously. They would just turn up here and there unexpectedly. The few times I did actually try to target them I had some mild luck. I have revisted most of the locations of my earlier triumphs though and have never been able to recreate the success. I mention all this because I made a trip to the Toledo area a few weeks ago. I wanted a hognose. Not to take home or anything, I just wanted to see one, I wanted to laugh. The sandy soils of Toledo are perfect for hogs, and if there is any place in Ohio you can try and target Heterodon, Toledo is it. I have had luck on two prior trips in the past. We gave it the old college try, struck out famously and I now find myself dreaming of past trips.

Found crossing the road

So if you are ever lucky enough to see a hognose snake, enjoy the moment. They are where they are, and you don't know when your paths may cross again...

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