Monday, May 27, 2013

Cool encounter with an Eastern Hognosed Snake

Yes, this post is about a snake. Time to click on through if you are an ophidiophobe. But remember, the following is just pictures and words. And the protagonist of this tale is utterly harmless, and one of our most interesting reptiles. But if even photos of snakes are too much, exit stage right.
A short while ago, I posted about a young Eastern Hognosed Snake, Heterodon platirhinos, from Adams County, Ohio, RIGHT HERE. While that animal was beautifully colored and a handsome beast indeed, it had already been handled and had settled down nicely. The snake that follows was much larger, and put on a heckuva act.
Believe it or not, this sandy lane serves as a "major" east-west artery in western Presque Isle County, Michigan. I was traversing it on my first day up in Michigan en route to my birds (and nearly everything else) workshop at NettieBay Lodge. I've had many interesting birds along this route before, such as the hybrid Brewster's Warbler, Mourning Warbler, Golden-winged Warbler and many others. Thus, I was slowly cruising along, listening as I went, when a three foot long ribbon in the road caught my eye.

An Eastern Hognosed Snake! Luck was with me - and the snake! While traffic on this road is light, vehicles come by with enough frequency that, were the snake to linger, chances are good it'd have been pancaked by an F-150. So of course, goal #1 was to ensure the animal's safety by speeding his passage, but as my reward for the good deed, some photos were in order.

As soon as I jumped out of the car and made my approach, the hognose went into its ferocious bluff. This was a good-sized snake insofar as hognoses go - about three feet in length. As I neared, the snake held its ground, began to hiss, curled its tail tip into a faux rattle, and flattened its neck to cobraesque dimensions. If one was not hip to the charade, this behavior would probably be rather intimidating and likely result in one of two outcomes: the person would quickly leave, or kill the snake.

With a bit of goading, the hognose really put on a show. Mouth agape, it made fake lunges in the direction of your narrator. As always, however, these strikes fell short. I've never heard of an Eastern Hognosed Snake attempting to bite a person, and given their lack of teeth, they couldn't inflict harm even if the snake wanted to.

That's an impressive mouth, and it's easy to see how a hognose can swallow a toad. The warty amphibians are favored prey. Had I pushed the snake a bit more, it undoubtedly would have entered Act II, which is to roll over and play dead.

After a brief bit of play with the snake, I moved him into the vegetation off the side of the road to which he was headed. Just in time, too - not far after commencing travel, I passed a couple of speeding pickup trucks headed the snake's way.


Anonymous said...

Nice snake!

And my dear wife, who is as ophidophobic as it's possible for one person to be, very much appreciated the introduction. The "stealth snake" from last week took her by surprise.

Jim McCormac said...

Thanks, and I sometimes forget how terrified of snakes some people can be!

Julie Zickefoose said...

Just gorgeous!! Nice to see one standing up for itself...most of mine roll over from the get-go. Neat note: Have had one record of this species on our sanctuary since 1992. And it was a 3.5 foot long melanistic individual, black as coal, and it rared up like a cobra, then rolled over. Love those snakes.

Anonymous said...

That last shot shows his toad deflating hardware very well. His "heterodons" or different teeth. One of my favorite snakes, I have many, and am still perplexed by how many people wear their snake phobia like a badge that they are almost proud of.

I find many people announce it to anyone who will listen, as if somehow it makes them more "normal" than folks like me who never learned to fear them. I do my part to show young people that they don't really have to be afraid.


Casey Nethers said...

Great pictures Jim, My question is, what other North American snakes in that reagion mimic the flatening out posture? It's incredible how animals and insects have taken on other creatures abilitys to be who they are not. Have you wrote any articles on mimicry? If not, take this topic and run with it. Merl

The Skeptical Mystic said...

Awesome closeup, Jim. Especially that last one.