Herp of the Day

August 22, 2020: Heterodon simus

Our next species to feature is a rather reclusive and rare one in the reptile keeping hobby, the Southern Hognose snake, Heterodon simus. These are a beautiful southeastern hognose, and one of five species of hognose snakes in the United States.

Characterized by the typical upturned nose hognoses are known for, this species distinguishes itself from the Eastern hognose through several color differences. Unlike Easterns, southerns are always gray, tan, or reddish in color, and their splotches are never solid black. Their reddish line under the brown splotches along their spine give them an even more striking appearance that helps them blend in with the brown leaf litter and pine needles they inhabit.

These are the smallest of the US hognoses, only reaching 24″/61cm in length. They’re a heavy bodied snake, and are excellent burrowers. While not much is known about their below-surface habitats, they do excavate their own hibernacula in nearly vertical holes. Sandy soils are key for this species, with well-draining soils and suitable vegetation structure that allows them to create the burrows they need. Due to their fossorial habits, they can even persist in suburban or agricultural areas with sandy soils, such as the Savannah River Site.

Their diet of almost exclusively toads and other amphibians make this species particularly difficult in captive settings, although rather interesting. They seem to be immune to poisons produced by toads, and are rear fanged so they are able to puncture inflated toads as well as inject a venom from the Duvernoy’s gland. They have been known to occasionally consume other prey, such as small lizards.

The primary concern for these awesome little snakes is habitat-loss. Habitat loss and fragmentation resulting from the decimation of long leaf pine forests across the range of the species are of most concern, as well as impacts from urbanization and climate change.

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