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Nature Notebook – Hognose Snake

“When I poked at it with a broomstick, it flattened its head like a cobra,” said the concerned caller. We were able to convince him that, unless he was a toad, he was in no danger from the Eastern hognose snake he encountered on his front lawn.

If the caller had stayed by the snake, he would have been treated to an Oscar-worthy death scene. The hognose would have imitated a convulsive fit while smearing itself with smelly musk and ended belly up, tongue hanging out of its mouth.

This performance is usually enough to make a perceived predator think “ewwww” and walk away.

Toads, however, elicit a different response…a “grab-and-eat” response. A hognose snake has an unusually wide mouth that allows it to deal with an inflated toad (its defense against a predator). The snake also has specialized hormones that render the toad’s toxins ineffective.