No small feat for Eastern Hog-nosed Snakes

Menu ☰

Back to all

Notes From The Field

February 13, 2024 | By Katie Schankula

Background Information

You may have read one of our previous discussion posts regarding the successful gestation of Massasauga rattlesnakes. This particular project required a permit for the creation of gestation habitat as an overall benefit action for Massasauga rattlesnakes. Successful gestation for Massasaugas was noted in August of 2019. Eastern hog-nosed snakes were observed shedding at the overall benefit location that same year, but no neonates (babies) were observed, until now!

Eastern Hog-nosed Snakes Life History

Unlike the Massasauga rattlesnake, Eastern hog-nosed snakes are not venomous and pose little threat to humans. The Eastern hog-nosed snake is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (2007). Hog-nosed snakes are easiest to identify by their up-turned noses and cobra-like display conducted when threatened. They flatten their necks and hiss to mimic the sounds and displays created by cobras. The species has also been known to play dead if their cobra act fails to scare the threat away. 

Eastern hog-nosed snakes lay eggs, while Massasaugas give birth to live young.  Hog-nosed snakes prefer sandy substrates that can be excavated to a depth of 10-20 cm where eggs can be laid. They will sometimes use cavities under rocks or driftwood on beaches. The created overall benefit site offered all three of these habitat features. Although designed for Massasauga rattlesnakes, hog-nosed snakes could make use of the habitat as well.

Finding Eastern Hog-nosed Snakes

Eastern hog-nosed snakes are threatened by habitat loss and increased road mortality, making the species tricky to encounter in the wild. Species specific surveys can be conducted to aid in their detection, but incidental encounters are relatively rare. Routine monitoring to meet the criteria outlined in the overall benefit requirements led to the discovery of two adult Eastern hog-nosed snakes using the created habitat early in the summer of 2023. 

One of the adult Eastern Hog-nosed Snakes observed in June 2023


In the 28 years of FRi’s operation, field biologists have observed Eastern hog-nosed snakes infrequently; neonate hog-nosed snakes, even less. In August 2023, FRi field biologists made the first observation of successful Eastern hog-nosed snake reproduction at this location. Not only were neonate hog-nosed snakes observed, but Massasauga neonates were also confirmed. Two species of threatened snakes in Ontario are co-existing and successfully reproducing at a created overall benefit location. This a success story for the snakes and for the ongoing work of the Permittee to create and maintain snake habitat.

Neonate Eastern hog-nosed snake

Neonate Massasauga rattlesnakes with mother

This story provides confirmation that created habitat for species at risk contributes to their success and recovery in Ontario!