Eastern Hog-nosed Snake

This snake, which has the most elaborate defensive behavior of any other snake in Tennessee, occurs across the state. Also known as the “puff adder” or “hissing viper.”

Description: A stout, medium-sized snake (20.0 to 33.0 inches in length) with variable coloration and pattern, but easily distinguished by its upturned snout. The background color can be yellow, orange, gray, brown, or black, with brown, rust, or black rectangular patterns down the middle of the back.

Some adults may be almost all black or gray with little to no pattern. Belly is gray to yellowish with greenish-gray mottling. Females are longer and heavier than males. Young are more colorfully patterned than adults.

Similar Species: North American Racer, which lacks upturned snout, large head, and keeled scales, may resemble the dark form of Eastern Hog-nosed Snakes.

Habitat: Found in a variety of habitats, but generally prefers areas with sandy or loose soil where they can burrow. They can occur around farms, old fields, river floodplains, open woods, or rocky hillsides.

Diet: Primarily toads and frogs; occasionally salamanders, lizards, and small mammals.

Breeding information: Mating occurs in the spring. Females lay 4-61 white, thin-shelled eggs in a depression in sandy soils during the summer. Young hatch in late summer.

Status in Tennessee: Appears to be common across the state. Hog-nosed snakes are vulnerable to persecution because of their dramatic behavior, which can be mistaken for a poisonous snake.

Fun Facts:

  • Employs a number of defensive, theatrical tactics when approached, including flattening its head and neck, hissing loudly and striking (without biting), raising its upper body, rolling over to play dead, regurgitating and defecating, and releasing musk. If rolled onto its belly while it is playing dead, it will roll onto its back again.

Best places to see in Tennessee: Areas with sandy soil, including floodplains or hillsides.