Mr. Nature Bonus Video: Snake Plays Possum, Too

Yesterday we posted a video of an opossum fooling two dogs by playing dead–“playing possum.” The act can fool humans, too.

But voila! Here’s a harmless little snake that does the same thing. If he feels threatened, the hognosed snake will put on a fierce threat display; and if it doesn’t work–well, then it’s time to play dead. Upside down, tongue hanging motionless: he’ll even release a chemical that makes him smell dead.

Hognosed snakes in zoos and homes stop playing dead because they don’t feel threatened anymore. As the top item on their menu is live toads, I don’t recommend them as pets. But it’s cool that God gave two such widely unrelated animals the same almost-unique from of self-defense.


12 comments on “Mr. Nature Bonus Video: Snake Plays Possum, Too

  1. I know the species well. They are funny as heck and their threat displays are amazing, including flattening their neck and trying to look like a cobra. But they are about as harmless as a snake can be. The little green ribbon snakes that are all,but ubiquitous in the US will bite you (I speak from experience) and while not venomous, their saliva is full of serotonin and a ribbon snake bit can be quite painful (again, spoken from firsthand experience).

    But the hognose snake, at least the Western Hognose (heterodonis nasicus nasicus) that I am familiar with is docile, once they have finished doing their Rich Little impression routines, imitation rattlesnakes and cobras. They really are convincing and even when you know it’s a harmless creature, it’s intimidating. I once picked up a 4” long baby Hognose and the first thing it did was to strike at my hand with the ferocity of a prairie rattler (which is pretty fierce). But there are no fangs to back it up, and the strike is a harmless bump to the hand.

    As you mention, once a Hognose has lived in captivity, it’s no longer threatened by humans and chances are it will never do its act around people when it feels safe. They are still fascinating and beautiful, and can thrive on mice. I don’t recommend snakes as a pet for anyone. They require special care and can be a bit of a challenge to keep. I’ve had pet snakes in the distant past, but I am more than content to let snakes live in the wild and I enjoy seeing them in that setting. We have Western Diamondbacks, Coachwhip Snakes, Coral Snakes and a darker pigmented version of the Ribbon Snake where I currently live. I am very wary of the Rattlesnakes, as one should be, and cautious of the Coral Snakes, which are not aggressive. The other species are harmless and the Coachwhip Snakes are not particularly aggressive.

    Most snakes prefer escape over a hostile encounter, but the Hognose brings a touch of comedy to the latter situation.

    1. I love snakes and admire them, but they are not pets. Yes, you can take a snake, in the sense that it can learn to recognize your scent and that it doesn’t have to fear you, but that’s about as far as it is likely to go. Feeding a snake involves buying mice and feeding them to the snake. I like mice too, so that always bothered me. I’ve had three snakes and will never have another. As I type, there are snakes in my neighborhood, living in the wild and that’s enough for me. Every so often, I have the privilege of seeing one of these beautiful creatures in the wild. I’m cautious, because some of the local species are venomous, but I admire even the dangerous ones, from a safe distance. You haven’t seen a beautiful snake until you’ve seen an Arizona Coral Snake.

    2. Snakes in captivity will only eat what’s good for them, and that’s almost always very specific–and hard for the owner to provide. Turtles and iguanas, on the other hand, can eat people-food and thrive on it. Lizards are a little harder because many of them will only eat live insects–although my wall lizards did just fine on Mighty Dog.

      I’ve never had a pet snake, but have always found the harmless snakes fun to watch and handle.

    3. P.S.–My monitor lizard ate mice, and that just had to stop. I wound up with a lot of pet mice. I will never again feed mice to another animal.

    4. *Sigh* I could’ve gotten by with chicken parts, thawed smelts, and probably other stuff as well–but there were things I didn’t know about monitors and didn’t learn until after I’d found a new home for mine. For instance, you ought to give them toys. Nobody knew that until recently.

    5. I’ve had several unusual pets, and some less than happy stories to go with them. Unusual pets can be great, but there’s a lot to learn before you get one. Unfortunately, this information is not always easy to come by, and before the Internet era, some of it was difficult to obtain. I condemn no one for their choices, but experience has taught me that every species has unique requirements and we have to be aware of these up front.

    6. As for pet reptiles, the ones that naturally live in your own part of the world do best, My NJ fence lizards laid eggs and they all hatched.

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