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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Species Spotlight #7: Eastern Hognose Snake

As far back as I can remember, I never really wanted to be a herper. (*cue music*) That’s not to say I don’t like reptiles and amphibians, I think they’re really quite cool. Just, sticking my hands under fallen bark and tossing dead logs to manhandle a potentially cantankerous serpent never really appealed to me in the same way that birding did. Regardless, after hanging around a couple of passionate herpers and watching one too many episodes of Animal Planet’s The Jeff Corwin Experience, a perfect opportunity presented itself to me. So I figured, why the hell not?

At the time, James and I were exploring Gate 23 of Duke Forest’s Korstian Division, and after checking out a nice Louisiana Waterthrush down by the bridge, we were making our way back to the car. That’s when James noticed something rustling along the side of the gravel path. At first it looked like a Black Racer, a snake we’d already seen one of that day, but as we got closer it flattened its head, puffed up its body and let out a menacing hissing sound. We had stumbled upon an Eastern Hognose Snake.

Eastern Hognose Snake - Duke Forest, NC

Now, Eastern Hognose Snakes are interesting in that they positively will not bite you. Manhandle them a little and they’ll put on their little hissing display like this one was doing. Manhandle them a lot and they’ll play dead, flipping onto their back and letting their tongue hang out all while releasing a death-like musk. So to me, this was the perfect snake to test my capture technique on.

I pulled the snake out of the brush by its tail, and as I maneuvered it over to the gravel path, it rose up, neck flattened like a cobra’s hood and looking surprisingly intimidating. My natural human instincts took over and I dropped the thing, which I suppose was the snake’s plan all along. It slithered its way off the path and under the pine straw, and we never saw it again. Too bad, I would have liked a better picture of this amazing snake, but let’s just say, herping is not my bag, baby.

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