by: Brian Mihura The Wildlife Center receives creatures of enormous talent. Not only do world-class songsters pass through annually, but so do masters of disguise, phenomenal architects and all too often, expert escape artists. Topping the bill for actors, however, is the Hognose Snake. The Eastern Hognose Snake (Heterodon platirhinos), is a snake common to the eastern half of North America. It is considered non-venomous, but toads would probably argue that point. Venom has been found in the saliva, but it only seems to affect toads and small amphibians. It is easily identified by its turned up nose. Coloration can range from sandy to almost black, but they are usually spotted shades of tan, copper and brown. Our current patient leans more toward shades of dark green and brown. Not considered an aggressive creature, it will put its acting skills to use when confronted. Act 1 begins with the flattening of the body and the adoption of a fierce open-mouthed display. This often includes surprising audible hissing. Common names for the Hognose include the hissing adder or puff adder. To the uninitiated, there is no doubt that this snake is venomous and mean as …well…a snake. More than one person has mistaken the act to be that of a cobra’s, a snake not found in the New World. Strikes may also be attempted by the Hognose, but these invariably take place with the mouth closed. If this aggressive bluff fails, the Hognose moves on to Act 2. Act 2 involves the release of a foul-smelling musk and fecal matter and begins to writhe in death throes. All of this is meant to send the signal that it is patently unappetizing fare – not only does [...]
The Garter Snake has a distribution that is the largest of any reptile in North America. They range from Canada to Central America. There are so many sub-species and color variations within species that it would be difficult to describe, except that they all have 3 racing stripes that run from the neck to the tail. The body runs the gamut of colors from almost black through tan and olive through bright green. Some have spots between the stripes and others look like checkerboards. The racing stripes are usually a shade of yellow, but others have orange or red stripes. They are a wonderful addition to any yard or garden. Originally thought to be non-venomous, it turns out that Garter Snakes do in fact possess this chemical weapon. The venom is very weak and not toxic unless you are toad or lizard. The reason they were thought to be non-venomous is that they don’t have fangs and the reaction of humans or their companion animals to a bite is mild redness and maybe an itching sensation. The venom is delivered by two “teeth” located in the very back of the mouth. Garter Snakes don’t strike prey; they have to “chew” on it to deliver the venom. Again this is not an issue if you aren’t a toad or lizard. Garter Snakes communicate with each other via pheromones. They lay down a scent trail wherever they go – which is helpful if you are a male snake looking for a mate. But some males have an interesting adaptation – they possess both male and female pheromones. This causes other males to waste energy chasing a “she-male” instead of successfully mating with a female. What a dirty trick!