Monday, July 26, 2010

Harmless Hognose Threat Display

This Hognose snake was slipsliding across a woodsy road just after a rain yesterday as the JEEP and I came around the bend.
By the time I pulled to a stop, he had oozed off into the grass and was only a few feet from disappearing into the safety of a palmetto grove. At that point, he was in escape mode with no theatrics.

When I stepped between him and the palmetto, he reacted with an impressive threat display. The photo above isn't great, I was trying to get an angle on him, while blocking him, and he was constantly moving.

I think the video is better.
Let's watch it and then we'll talk about these harmless snakes.

You already watched it 3 times?

Okay, ... for those who did NOT jump ahead, let's check it out.

Pretty impressive display. It's an instinctive response to a threat ... in this case me ... as if,
I'm on his side.
Unfortunately, I think it usually triggers the "Grab a hoe and chop like there's no tomorrow!" response in humans.

Which is really too bad, because these little guys are just not dangerous in any way.

The flattening of the head might be construed as a form of mimicry ... if cobras existed in the wilds of North America.

Since they don't, it's probably just a "See how BIG I am? Fear me!" sorta response ... just like dog hackles or feathers on a rooster that's about to fight.

If the hissing bighead display does not scare away the predator, the Hognose may roll over, belly up, with his tongue hanging out ... playing dead.

I was hoping to illicit that response too, but as I filmed, he decided to make a swift slither for the safety of the palmettoes.

I was filming with one hand and trying to grab him with the other ... which is why the end of the video is all swooshy bumpy.

Sometimes my multitasking is ... lacking ... in the "multi" part.


lisa said...

You know your snakes pretty darn good, I wouldn't of killed it but I sure as heck wouldn't of gotten too close to it either. I happen to like snakes but prefer to stay away from the ones I do not have no clue as what they are (smart on my part of course) I thought you did a good job at multitasking!

SwampAngel65 said...

I have always wanted to see a hognose in the cool!!! Now the next display you need to video from one of those guys is the way they play dead. If you can se both of those, I'd say that's pretty damn awesome in my book!

threecollie said...

Only ever seen a couple of hog noses, but they are really cool!

Sayre said...

I've heard that they do that but never seen it. I have seen the playing dead ruse though. I love seeing snakes (if I know that they're there - I don't like to be surprised).

S N B said...

Wow! That posturing works for me!

Thunder Dave said...

Bull snakes do a lot of the same things. They'll do a cobra like display puffing up and hissing, and then coil up and rattle their tail aganst leaves to look and sound like a rattler, then last ditch effort is roll over and play dead.

robin andrea said...

Excellent video! I don't know one snake from another, unless one rattles at me, but my response is to back up slowly, get out of striking distance, and then run like hell.

roger said...

gopher snakes do the pretend rattlesnake thing too.

Cuz Tina said...

Haven't been on since Friday and I get a SNAKE video? I prefer chopping them with a shovel!

amarkonmywall said...

C'mon up. I have a copperhead living in the stone well that wraps around our big hickory. He/she is often moving down there in the early morning, easy to observe safely because it's about 5 feet down. At least I hope the 5 foot distance is sufficient. Lots of other snakes, harmless ones, out and about in the garden.

I did watch the video a few times. :-)

Floridacracker said...

To All,

I will try for a playing possum hognose snake to complete the set, but do not hold your breath. I rarely cross paths with these hoggies and just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

Makes y'all wonder what all crosses a road when you aren't there doesn't it?

Buford Nature said...

I have not seen a hognose in the wild since I was 14yo, and I am now, um, much older than that. You lucky blankety-blank!!!

But I did (legally) catch an indigo not long ago, for whatever that's worth.

Ericka said...


dang gum it? i thought i was the only one that used that phrase...

Bill said...

That was pretty funny. I was expecting the famous FC laugh at the end. Good Job!


LaDivaCucina said...

So, they have large, flat heads, I thought the jeep got him! You have to have keen eyes to catch things in nature, which I do. I once counted about 14 kingfishers sitting on the lines above the canals in Alligator Alley on the way to Naples once. Cool.

Anonymous said...

Cobra-wannabe is the first thing that occurred to me. I wouldn't go after him with a shovel, but I'd keep my distance.