Western Hognose Care
Native Country: Central America / Northern Mexico /Southern Canada
Adult size: 1.5-3ft, males usually being slightly smaller
Longevity: 15-20 years
Since the stay small, they don’t need huge enclosures and often do best in small environments. We start babies off in 1.3L Braplast tubs or similar sized boxes, this ensures the snake feels secure and is therefore more likely to eat. As they grow you can slowly move them up into bigger tubs, we use 3L Braplast tubs for our juvenile’s and find they work very well. Once they are adults you can either continue housing them in tubs or move them into a vivarium. If keeping them in tubs, a V35 tub is an ideal size. A 2 or 3 foot vivarium will also be perfect if you wish to house your snake that way. Hognose’s do not do well in high humidity so make sure there is plenty of ventilation in whatever you choose to house them in.
So what substrate should you use on the bottom of your vivarium / tub? You have several choices, these are listed below, along with any advantages and disadvantages of each one.
Paper towels – We use this for hatchlings until they are feeding, before changing over to Lignocel. It’s easy to clean / change and makes sure substrate isn’t ingested with food when very young.
Lignocel – We use this for adults, easy to clean and the snakes can burrow. Helps mask any smell.
Western Hognose’s are cold blooded like all reptiles and need to be provided with the correct temperatures within their caging to allow them to thrive. Hognose do very well when kept hotter than most colubrids. An ambient temperature of around 80°f (26.5°c) is perfect, with a hot basking spot of 90-94°f (32-34.5°c). Keeping them at these temperatures will keep them active and allow their fast metabolism to function correctly.
Heatmat: A heatmat is the easiest way to provide your snake with a warm end when kept in a tub, you should use a heatmat which covers about 1/3 of your tub floor space, and place it right at one end. When using a wooden vivarium we would recommend the use of alternative heating described below. When using a heatmat, you can use a pulse thermostats to control it, we can recommend Habistat or InkBird thermostats. Make sure your thermostat probe is placed on top of your heatmat, this will allow you to accurately control how warm your warm end gets. You now need a digital thermometer (with a probe, or an infra red gun) to measure how warm it is getting and adjust the thermostat as needed. Please do not use the analogue thermometers as they are not accurate.
Heat lamp: You may also use a heat lamp to provide your basking spot if using a vivarium. You again need to set this up at one end of the vivarium and set it up just like you did a heat mat. The only difference is that you need to use a dimming thermostat. This type of thermostat dims down the bulb to create the correct temperature, a normal thermostat would turn it on and off, creating a disco and shortening the life of your bulb! Depending on the size of your vivarium and how warm the room you are housing them in is, you may have to try different wattage bulbs to find one which works best, however 40W / 60W is normally ok. Remember to check your temperatures carefully with a digital thermometer though. Make sure any bulbs are guarded to prevent burns.
Being diurnal light cycles are very important, although they do not need UV, a good amount of daylight will keep them active and alert.
Feeding / Supplements
When kept hot enough hognose’s have a very fast metabolism and do well on small, but frequent meals. They can be fed every 3 or 4 days on a suitable sized meal and should grow much quicker than most colubrids. We start babies off on pinkies, and by the time they are 4 months old or so they are normally taking fluffs twice a week.
Hognose’s can be fussy feeders and sometimes tricks are needed to get them feeding, especially with babies. We have found that frog scenting with North American tree frogs to be the most successful, although people have used tuna, salmon etc with success. If they won’t take food from the tweezers, try leaving it in with them overnight. You could also try moving them to a smaller enclosure. Adults will fast at times throughout the year and this is never normally a problem, they will start eating again when they want to. Unless your snake is losing a lot of weight then just keep offering as normal. Over the winter they naturally brumate and will try do this in captivity. We believe brumation is key to successfully breeding hognose’s and would always recommend brumating breeders or non feeding adults as they will most likely feed well after.