Herping in Hogtober
Featuring the southern hognose snake
Southern hognose snakes don’t grow longer than two feet, but they seem to think that they’re big and bad. When threatened, a southern hognose snake will hiss and flare out its head to look like a cobra. If this fails to deter the approaching menace, it will roll over and “die” in dramatic fashion! This is called death feigning, a theatrical display performed by all species of hognose snakes. Southern hognose snakes are in fact very docile; once they determine that they are not actually threatened, they move on with their lives very quickly.
Unless your natural musk is similar to that of a savory toad, your chances of coming across a southern hognose snake are slim to none. If you’re lucky enough, you may spot one in April, May, or October (also fondly known as Hogtober). Unlike the eastern hognose snake which ranges throughout most of the eastern half of the United States, the southern hognose snake is only found in sandhills on the coastal plains of Georgia, Florida, and the Carolinas.
Southern hognose snakes, like other hognose snakes, are fossorial, which means they burrow – making them more difficult to find in their natural habitats. Southern hognose snakes are aptly named for their unique nose shape that allows them to dig in loose sand where they hibernate, reproduce, and escape hot and cold weather.
Many experts fear that this species is rapidly declining throughout their range. Southern hognose snakes face multiple threats including loss of open understory habitat due to fire suppression; increased urbanization from encroaching development, as sandhills are ideal places to build homes because they seldom flood; and extensive road mortality as more and more roads cut through habitat. Southern hognose snakes are also threatened by non-native invasive species, such as feral hogs and red imported fire ants. If the snakes encounter underground ant mounds, the fire ants will kill and eat them. Fire ants perhaps pose the biggest threat to eggs and hatchling snakes.
In a collaborative effort, ARC, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other partners are committed to increasing the population of the southern hognose snake before it’s too late. To learn more about what we are doing, keep an eye out for next week’s newsletter as we continue to celebrate Hogtober!
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