A ~ C ~ S~N~A~K~E~S
Snake Breeders Based in Leicestershire, England, UK
Hognose snakes are mildly venomous and possess enlarged rear fangs which may or may not be slightly grooved and it is therefore, as far as we are aware, unclear as to whether or not these fangs are capable of delivering their venom. It is considered more likely that any envenoming is done by delivering the contents of its Duvernoy's gland through a simple chewing action as is the case in other species who do not possess enlarged fangs. The enlarged fangs of the hognose were once believed to be used to deflate toads but as the natural diet consists of relatively small quantities of amphibians, this seems unlikely.
In general, they are all about bluff and normally have no desire to bite. Being mostly ambush hunters, bites are usually an accidental or inaccurate feeding response therefore use of tongs for feeding is recommended. There are however, exceptions to every rule!
In March 2012 I received 2 bites from a yearling female Malagasy Hognose, Leioheterodon madagascariensis (pictured above). The bites were received within minutes of each other and the first bite was dry (no venom) however the second was not.
The bite on the left hand was the dry bite which was delivered using a chewing action and as you can see was done using all the teeth. I dunked my hand in a jug of cold water with the snake attached and she immediately released. There was no pain at all and I kept handling her, as I always do after a bite, in an effort to calm her down. This felt like any other snake bite.
The second bite (right hand) was also done with a chewing action and as before, I dunked her in the cold water but this time she would not release. I pushed her further onto my hand to remove the teeth and she let go. To my surprise there were only 2 teeth marks but not the usual pin prick looking marks, they were slits which may indicate that their fangs are in fact capable of delivering their venom. Quite quickly I noticed these 2 teeth marks getting warm. The snake calmed down within a few minutes and I put her back in her enclosure.
Within minutes the base of my right thumb was a little swollen and the bite marks were now hot. The wounds were cleaned and more photos taken.
Within an hour or so all heat and swelling had ceased.
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