Southern Hog-nosed Snake
(Heterodon simus)

Description: Like other hog-nosed snakes, this snake has a stout body, keeled scales and an upturned snout. They can reach up to two feet in length and are generally gray, light brown, or reddish in color with darker blotches going down the back and sides. The underside is pale to grayish and the underside of the tail is the same color as the belly (unlike the Eastern Hog-nosed Snake– see similar species).

Natural History: This highly fossorial snake is most active above ground in fall and spring. They most frequently occur in the open pine forest with sandy, well drained soils. This includes the Sandhills and coastal dunes. They are diurnal and dig through loose soil in search of toads.

If threatened they will put on an elaborate display of defensive tactics. They will puff out their head and neck to appear larger and will loudly hiss. They will often jab their head in a forward motion to gesture a strike, but will rarely bite. If pestered enough, they will also play dead to appear unappetizing.

Similar Species: The Eastern Hog-nosed Snake (Heterodon platirhinos) can closely resemble the Southern Hog-nosed Snake in appearance. The best way to distinguish between the species is checking the underside of the tail. The Southern Hog-nosed Snake has a tail color that is the same as its belly, while the Eastern Hog-nosed Snake has a tail color that is lighter than the belly.

Distribution: This species is found in the coastal plains of the Southeastern United States. From North Carolina, through Florida, to Mississippi. However, it has recently been determined that this snake may no longer occur in Alabama and Mississippi due to conservation concerns.

Notes: This species has declined significantly throughout its range due to habitat destruction, fragmentation, and introduction of red ants. It is now a species of concern across its range. It is a federally at risk species and listed as a threatened species in South Carolina.

Contributed by Jake Zadik (2/24/2020)