Species At Risk

Eastern Hog-nosed Snake

(Heterodon platirhinos)


Eastern Hog-nosed Snake


The Eastern Hog-nosed Snake is a non-venomous, thick-bodied snake that can grow up to one metre long. Some individuals are colourful and have distinct black-brown blotches while others are drab in their appearance. The easiest way to identify this snake is by its distinctive upturned nose and behavioural displays. When this harmless snake feels threatened by predators or humans, it coils up, flattens its head and neck to form a cobra-like hood, inflates its body, hisses loudly and strikes, but always with a closed mouth. If this frightening display doesn’t scare the predator or person away, the snake rolls over and plays dead.


The Eastern Hog-nosed Snake is only found in eastern North America, with about ten per cent of its range occurring in Canada. The Canadian population is limited to Ontario where it can be found in two areas: The Carolinian Region and Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Region.


The Eastern Hog-nosed Snake specializes in hunting and eating toads, and usually only occurs where toads can be found. Eastern Hog-nosed Snakes prefersandy, well-drained habitats such as beaches and dry forests where they can lay their eggs and hibernate. They use their up-turned snout to dig burrows below the frost line in the sand where eggs are deposited.


The most significant threats to the Eastern Hog-nosed Snake are habitat loss and fragmentation, and persecution by people. The impressive cobra imitation of this harmless snake is so convincing that people often think it is dangerous. Road mortality is an increasing threat for this species. Eastern Hog-nosed Snake populations also likely fluctuate with changes in toad populations.


The Eastern Hog-nosed Snake is protected under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act.

What You Can Do to Help the Eastern Hog-nosed Snake

  • The Ministry of Natural Resources tracks species at risk such as the Eastern Hog-nosed snake. The Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas collects observations of all Ontario reptiles and amphibians. Submit your observations to either of these databases at nhic.mnr.gov.on.ca/species/species_report.cfm and www.ontarionature.org/atlas. Photographs are important to help confirm the identification of species and are always helpful.
  • Appreciate snakes and don’t harm them. Sadly, people continue to deliberately kill snakes. Keep the danger of snakes in perspective: All of Ontario’s snakes are non-venomous, except for the very rare Massasauga.
  • Never buy snakes that have been caught in the wild and never buy a native species of any kind that’s being sold as a pet.
  • Report any illegal activity related to plants and wildlife to 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667).
  • Every year, snakes all over the province must cross busy roads. Watch for snakes on the road, especially between May and October when they are most active.
  • Volunteer with your local nature club or provincial park to participate in surveys or stewardship work focused on species at risk.
  • Private land owners have an important role to play in species at risk recovery.You may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats.
  • There is a program geared to eligible farms registered under the Canada-Ontario Environmental Farm Plan to encourage greater protection and conservation of habitat for species at risk. For more information, visit: www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/environment/efp/efp.htm.
  • Register with the Herpetofaunal Atlas program to receive e-mail newsletters, event notifications, and other important updates about the Herpetofaunal Atlas project as it develops. Visit their website to see how you can participate and learn more about Ontario’s reptiles and amphibians: www.ontarionature.org/herpetofaunal_atlas.html.

Did you know?

Scientists are studying the Hog-nosed Snake to learn about the advantages of playing dead as a defence strategy against predators.

Did you know?

Snakes ‘smell’ using their tongue instead of their nostrils. When they flick out their tongue they capture scent molecules, which are then pressed against a special organ inside the mouth, called a vomeronasal organ.

Did you know?

Unlike other snakes that tend to hibernate in groups, the Eastern Hog-nosed Snake usually spends the winter months alone. It may hibernate in a pre-existing burrow or dig a burrow in the ground with its snout.

Did you know?

Most Eastern Hog-nosed Snakes reach maturity after two to three years. At the northern edge of its range, it takes Ontario individuals four to five years to become mature.

The Endangered Species Act

Contact your local ministry office

Often the best source of local information on species at risk is your nearest ministry office. Call with your questions or concerns.