Identification: Hog-nosed snakes are one of the most unique snakes in Indiana, largely by virtue of their peculiar defensive behaviors. Though quite variable in color and pattern, no other snake exhibits such dramatic behavior when threatened. When encountered, a hog-nosed snake may hiss loudly and flatten its neck and head in an almost cobra-like fashion. If this fails to scare away a would-be attacker, they may strike open-mouthed at the perceived threat. If all else fails, hog-nosed snakes sometimes put on an exaggerated death-feigning display in which they flail around on their back, mouth agape, and ultimately come to rest, after numerous convulsions, upside down, tongue lolling out. Aside from this behavior, hog-nosed snakes also have a uniquely upturned snout for burrowing. They are otherwise robust snakes that may be gray-brown to orange-yellow with irregular black blotches. Melanism is common among hog-nosed snakes and many individuals are entirely black or slate-gray. Most adult hog-nosed snakes are two to three feet (60 - 90 cm) long, but some may approach four feet (1.2 m) in length.
Similar Species: Though hog-nosed snakes have unmistakable defensive behaviors, the wide range of color variants they sport can make identifying an unprovoked snake difficult. In particular, northern watersnakes, eastern milksnakes, and copperheads are superficially similar due to their banded pattern. However, all other species lack the distinct upturned snout for which hog-nosed snakes were named.
Distribution: Hog-nosed snakes occur throughout Indiana, but are most prevalent in regions with sandy soil and abundant toads, their primary prey. They are also common in the unglaciated hills of southern Indiana. They are good burrowers that spend some time underground, but are often seen crossing roads during the spring and summer.