The Southern Hog-nosed Snake is a small, heavy bodied snake that reach up to 24 inchs (61cm) in length. Although similar to the Eastern Hog-nosed Snake, the Southern Hog-nosed Snake has a more upturned snout, like that of a Western Hog-nosed Snake, as well as the eyes tending to be smaller. Overall, they are the smallest of the three Heterodon species.
Unlike the Eastern Hog-nosed Snake, which can vary greatly in coloration, Southerns are typically a greyish, tan, or red color with brownish or black blotches down the center of the back, and smaller alternating blotches on the sides. They also tend to have a pinkish coloration down the dorsum. There is no melanistic phase of the Southern Hog-nosed Snake
They can distinguished from Eastern Hog-nosed Snakes by examining the underside of the tail, in which southerns have a tail that is the same coloration as the belly, while Eastern's have a light colored tail, like that of a southern, but a darker belly.
Also, they're defensive behavior differs from Eastern's, in being much less elaborate, they tend to just spread the neck and head to look more like a Pygmy Rattlesnake rather than a Cobra. They also tend to hiss and play dead like other species in the Heterodon genus.
This is a sexually dimorphic species in that females are larger than males, as well as having much shorter, more sharply tapering tails than a male.
Distribution & Habitat
The range of the Southern Hog-nosed Snake has been decimated over the years due to habitat destruction (wetlands in which their prey depends on), road development, and the introduction of the R.I.F.A, which eat the young as they hatch from eggs. Once ranging from southern Mississippi, Alabama, Central Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Southeastern North Carolina, they now are patchily distributed throughout that vast area and are extirpitated from Mississippi and Alabama.
Both Hog-nosed species in the Southeast tend to prefer sandy areas, but Southern Hog-nosed are almost exclusively found in sandhill, longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) flatwoods, and sand ridges across the range which puts them at risk of local extinctions. Being very fossorial snakes, they can thrive in sandy agricultural or rural residential areas. This fossorial behavior also makes their presence in area's hard to assess.
Southern Hog-nosed Snakes are strictly diurnal, preferring to move in the morning and early afternoon hours, and burrowing underground during the heat of the day to prevent water loss. They are semi fossorial snakes that likely spend most of their time underground searching for available prey or waiting for better foraging conditions, which has made local populations seem rarer and less abundant than they actually are. They seem to be most active during the spring and fall months due to the cooler temperatures and because they breed in both seasons.
Southern Hog-nosed Snakes have one of the least elaborate displays of the Hog-nosed snakes, and they tend to just flatten the head, rather than the neck area like the Western and Eastern Hog-nosed Snakes are more known for. Before relying on bluff for defense, they will sit motionless and use their amazing camouflage to keep them hidden from predators, if this fails, the snake will inflate and begin hissing rapidly while curling up. If this fails to deter the would-be predator, they usually feign death. Throughout their range, they seem to mimic pygmy rattlesnakes in pattern and coloration.
These snakes are "lazy", in terms of activity, spending alot of time remaining motionless underground. They have very small home ranges typically only a few acres in size, if that. There's is a sympatric relationship between Spadefoot toads, and Southern Hog-nosed snakes. It seems as though they are not found where there are no spadefoot toads, but where they do occur, weather it be in a plantation pine forest, or sand ridge, they will thrive.
Heterodon - North American Hog-nosed Snakes
- Heterodon simus - Southern Hog-nosed Snake