The Puff Adder aka Eastern Hognose Snake

Eastern Hognose Snake

Eastern Hognose Snake, photo by Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Of the approximately 2400 species of snakes in the world, Michigan has just 17. The State of Michigan’s page on the Eastern Hog-nosed Snake (Heterodon platirhinos) says (in part):

Description: A thick-bodied, slow-moving snake with a flattened, upturned “nose.” Color is variable some have dark spots and blotches on a yellow, orange, or brown background, but other specimens are solid black, brown, or olive with little or no visible pattern. Easily identified by defensive behavior (see below). Adult length: 20 to 40 inches.

Habitat and Habits: A snake of open, sandy woodlands – found in the wooded dunes of western Michigan. The upturned snout is used to burrow after toads, a favorite food. When threatened, hognose snakes puff up with air, flatten their necks and bodies, and hiss loudly. (This has led to local names like “puff adder” or “hissing viper.”) If this act is unsuccessful, they will writhe about, excrete a foul smelling musk, and then turn over with mouth agape and lie still, as though dead. Despite this intimidating behavior, Hog-nosed snakes are harmless to humans…

Range and Status: Though recorded from most of the Lower Peninsula and the southern tip of the Upper Peninsula, Hog-nosed Snakes are most common in the western and northern LP. Their numbers have declined in many places, in part due to persecution by humans who mistakenly believe they are dangerous.

View it bigger (if you dare!) on their Facebook and see more great shots of native flora & fauna on the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Facebook!

More Michigan snakes on Michigan in Pictures.

 

 

Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus catenatus)

Michigan Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake

Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake, photo by Jonathan Schechter/Earth’s Almanac

In Season of the Massasauga Rattler!, Jonathan Schechter writes that the massasauga  likes our sun-soaked trails in the waning days of summer and early autumn, so you may catch a glimpse of one if you’re out and about in Lower Michigan. The Michigan DNR page on the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus catenatus) explains:

Michigan’s only venomous snake is a rare sight for most state residents. Historically, they could be found in a variety of wetlands and nearby upland woods throughout the lower peninsula. During the late spring, these snakes move from their winter hibernation sites, such as crayfish chimneys and other small mammal burrows in swamps and marshlands, to hunt on the drier upland sites – likely in search of mice and voles, their favorite food.

Females give birth to 8 to 20 young in late summer. The young snakes have a single “button” on their tails; a new rattle segment is added at each shedding of the skin, which occurs several times per year.

The massasauga can be characterized as a shy, sluggish snake. Its thick body is colored with a pattern of dark brown slightly rectangular patches set against a light gray-to-brown background. Occasionally, this coloration can be so dark as to appear almost black. The belly is mostly black. It is the only Michigan snake with segmented rattles on the end of its tail and elliptical, (“cat like”) vertical pupils in the eyes. The neck is narrow, contrasting with the wide head and body and the head appears triangular in shape. Adult length is 2 to 3 feet.

These rattlesnakes avoid confrontation with humans; they are not prone to strike – preferring to leave the area when they are threatened. Like any animal though, these snakes will protect themselves from anything they see as a potential predator. Their short fangs can easily puncture skin and they do possess a potent venom. It is best to treat them with respect and leave them alone. The few bites that occur to humans often result from attempts to handle or kill the snakes. Any bite from a massasauga should receive prompt professional medical attention. When compared to other rattlesnakes found in the United States, the massasauga is the smallest and has the least toxic venom.

Massasaugas are found throughout the Lower Peninsula, but not in the Upper Peninsula (thus there are no poisonous snakes on the Upper Peninsula mainland.)

They stress that Massasaugas are listed as a “species of special concern” and are protected by state law, so don’t kill or harm them. Read on for more including some lookalike snakes.

Jonathan adds that almost all rattler bites are on the dominant hand of the offending human! He took the photo above two years ago on a popular Oakland County hike-bike trail and notes that much of Oakland County is ratter habitat. Visit Earth’s Almanac to read more and be sure to subscribe to his blog when you’re there!

PS: Nick Scobel of the Herping Michigan blog has a great video of some Eastern Massasaugas that you should check out!

More Michigan snakes on Michigan in Pictures!

Northern Water Snake

Northern Water Snake

Northern Water Snake, photo by Brian Laskowski

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources page on the Northern Water Snake says:

Description: A water snake with dark bands or blotches on a light brown or gray background color. Some old adults may appear solid black or brown. The belly is white with reddish half moon shaped markings; some specimens have an orange belly speckled with brown or black. (The endangered Copper Bellied Water Snake has an unmarked reddish or orange belly.) Adult length: 2 to 4 feet.

Habitat and Habits: These snakes inhabit the shorelines of lakes, ponds, or streams. They swim well, seeking food (frogs and fish) and safety in the water, and often bask on objects hanging over the water. Water snakes are not venomous, but will bite if cornered or handled. They are sometimes mistakenly called “water moccasins” (which are not native to Michigan).

Reproduction: Females give birth to their 7 to 9 inch young in late summer. There are 8 to 48 babies in a litter. The young are gray or brown with bold black bands.

Range and Status: Northern water snakes are found throughout the Lower Peninsula and the eastern Upper Peninsula. Needless persecution by humans has eliminated water snakes from many places where they were once common.

The DNR’s Michigan Snake Page adds that there are just 17 species of snake in Michigan, so do what you can to protect this snake and its kin.

Check it out bigger and see more in Brian’s Michiganscapes slideshow.

More Michigan snakes on Michigan in Pictures.