The Quest for the Hognose

As a herper (one who actively searches for reptiles and amphibians), the ultimate goal is to find as many species as possible. Some can be very easy, and others can be extremely difficult.

I am spending my summer at home in Wyoming rather than in Florida. Luckily, my amazing boyfriend was able to tag along and enjoy the state with me. Wyoming has a total of 16 species of snake (2 venomous), 11 lizards, 4 turtles, 6 toads, 5 frogs, and 1 salamander. 43 species total. As you can imagine, it has been a crazy summer so far trying to find as many of these as we can. We have done really well so far and have nearly seen everything we can in my hometown of Casper before we need to start traveling to other parts of the state.

One of the biggest goals we had for the summer was to find a Plains Hognose Snake. Hognoses are my all-time favorite type of snakes. They have an adorable upturned snoot, and they play dead when they feel threatened. Can you even imagine something cuter?! I think not. My boyfriend had never seen one before, so this was a big deal. My dad and I found one last year while herping, and I was so excited that I burst into tears (trust me, there’s a video).

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This is the first plains hognose that I found while hiking with my dad.

The fact that I had seen one already made us both very determined to make sure we found one while he was here … thus began the Quest for the Hognose.

My boyfriend is brilliant when it comes to snakes and finding them. He can pick out the perfect habitat on Google Maps and locate the perfect roads to cruise to try to find specific species. This is exactly what he did at the beginning of our search. He found a couple really good roads, but one in particular that he was excited about.

We tried the road at first but came up hognose-less. We did, however find several bullsnakes and rattlesnakes along with perfect hognose habitat. Eventually, my boyfriend decided that we should try the road again, and we finally got our first clue into the Casper Hognose World! We found a dead adult-sized hognose on the road.

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The first plains hognose we found was dead but rewarding nonetheless because it showed us we were in the right area!

Now, one would think that it would be extremely sad to finally find the snake you are looking for and have it end up being dead, but it was quite the opposite. You see, up until that point, we hadn’t seen any evidence of them existing anywhere in Casper. We tried several different roads and talked to many people. We finally knew for sure that we were in the right place!

With a newfound strong desire to try again, we packed up our photography equipment and headed out to the road once more. We cruised for 4 hours, when all of a sudden we both look at each other and say, “Did you see that?” Prestin got out of the car and ran back. I look in the rearview mirror to see him screaming the word “HOGNOSE!!!” I rush out of the car, and sure enough, it is a hatchling plains hognose, playing dead. The cutest thing I’ve ever seen! I may or may not have shed a few tears.

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The next goal was to find a big hognose. We returned to the road soon after the thrill of the young hognose. The only live snakes were again bullsnakes and rattlesnakes. However, we did find an unexpected surprise. We found another dead hognose, but this time, it was HUGE. Roughly 3.5 feet and FAT! We wish we could have seen that beauty alive.

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Here you can see the large, dead hognose we found with Prestin’s feet for a size comparison.

We returned once more to the road, determined as ever to find a big hognose. We started cruising, and before we knew it, we were seeing several bullsnakes and rattlesnakes and moved them all off the road. After about 2 hours, we look up ahead and see a short and stout line sitting across the road. Prestin (AKA the ultimate snake expert) knew exactly what it was. HOGNOSE! Roughly 2 feet long and beautiful. As I pick it up off the ground, I immediately get pooped on while the snake proceeds to play dead. It was worth it. After weeks of dedicated searching, hours of searching for roads, multiple drives, and multiple hikes, we had finally found the snake we had dedicated so much time to.

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So there you have it … the quest for the hognose. It is always such a rewarding experience to find my favorite snakes, and it is even more so when my wonderful boyfriend gets a lifer out of it.

Let me know what you think! Are there any animals you would dedicate a lot of time to finding?

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27 thoughts on “The Quest for the Hognose

  1. Bobbie

    McKenna what an awesome story! I know you love these snakes, I had no idea how much went into finding them ! Great determination! You are such a sweet writer and I can’t wait to see your next blog !

    Liked by 1 person

  2. josypheen

    I am pretty nervous when I see snakes! I have only seen a couple in my life (there are loads near where my uncle lived in Tokyo, they warm up by laying on the roads…so I’d have to be careful when cycling.)

    BUT your enthusiasm for these little dudes is infectious. I think I’d have fun searching for them with someone like you who knows what they are doing. 🙂 Otherwise, I’d just be a bit scared to see them!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is awesome! I would love to go abroad looking for snakes of other countries. I’ve been around a couple people who are terrified of snakes and exposed them to some very nice ones, and they’ve slowly lost their fear. It is a really awesome process to watch!

      I think you would definitely enjoy it if you were with someone who was confident being around snakes. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. josypheen

        I think I picked up my nervousness from my mum (she is terrified of all snakes- like critters even worms!)

        You’re right though I’ll have to find a snake-knowing friend to learn from. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I picked up my irrational fear of moths from my mom as well! I’m mostly over it now, but they’ve always freaked me out! I have no fear of alligators, snakes, spiders, etc. but throw a moth or a grasshopper on me, and I will freak out!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. angelanoelauthor

    I am utterly delighted that you go to find snakes on purpose! Most people (me) would avoid them like. . . you know, the plague. But I love finding people who do awesome things that I wouldn’t do and enjoying the adventure along the way (without actually having to pick up a snake.) I’m so happy you found your hognose (which my auto-correct keeps wanting me to change to”hoboes”). I found your adventure very fun to read about! Looking forward to more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! I definitely understand people not wanting to actively try to find snakes. I feel the same way (finding people who do awesome things that I wouldn’t do) when it comes to crazy things like skydiving, bungee jumping, etc.! Thank you for taking the time to read! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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