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Giant Hognose, Leioheterodon madagascariensis

Giant Hog nose Introduction The Giant Hog nose snake is a large, terrestrial species of snake, native to Madagascar. They are common among forested tracts of land, but are also known to occur near rivers and agricultural land. They are diurnal, actively hunting throughout the day. Giant Hog nose have been known to grow to 6 feet in length and have a pretty heavy build. They prey on just about anything including but not limited to birds, small mammals, reptiles, frogs, and fish; generally catching their prey and immobilizing it with their powerful venom, which flows from fangs located in the back of the mouth.

Acclimation and Quarantine Giant Hogs are normally not difficult to acclimate. The vast majority of them are still wild caught, and because of the incorporation of lizards and frogs into their diet, they are likely to have a heavy parasite load. Wild caught snakes should therefore be treated for parasites as soon as possible after purchase. Fresh imports may be dehydrated. Allow the snake to lie on a branch in the shower with lukewarm water. This should be done as soon as the snake is home, and supervision is a must during these times. Another way is to place the snake in a deli cup or other enclosed space filled to about one inch with lukewarm water. This method is very effective as the snakes will often drink during these sessions. A large water dish should be present in the cage at all times. Quarantine or acclimation enclosures need not be elaborate, but rather sterile and easy to clean. Plastic storage bins are often used for such enclosures as they are easy to clean, come in a variety of sizes, and most provide the security needed for a freshly imported snake. Paper towels, newspapers, or other easily cleaned materials may be used as the substrate. A few cork rounds should be provided for additional security, and a ceramic container could be used as the water bowl as these are strong and heavy bodied snakes and are likely to tip over anything plastic. Excessive spilt water in a plastic enclosure can lead to many ailments. This setup should be used until the snake is feeding regularly and appears to be in good health.

Housing Once the snake is acclimated and feeding well it may be put into a permanent cage. Provide a cage that is relative to their body size. You don't want to put a 12 inch snake in a 5 ft cage, it would simply get lost. Neonates and juveniles can be kept in 10 - 30 gal. tanks. Vertical space is not a necessity as these snakes are mostly terrestrial. A cage that is about 48” x 18” x 20” (L x W x H) is an acceptable size cage for an individual or pair. Glass enclosures can be used as well as wooden cages. By far, the best cages are those made of polyethylene or controlled density PVC. These cages usually have only one transparent side and can also withstand high humidity within the habitat. Such cages are also usually inexpensive and attractive. Furnishing the enclosure is of personal preference. Branches can be used in the furnishing of the enclosure, however the snake will stay on the bottom most of the time. Hide boxes should also be placed on each end of the cage to provide the snake with a sense of security as they thermoregulate. Large amounts of foliage should be added to the cage to provide the snake with more places to hide. For substrate, soil, mulch, ground coconut, and sphagnum moss are all acceptable as these will help to retain the proper humidity levels the snake needs to thrive.

Lighting and Heating There should also be a thermal gradient in the cage, so that the snake may choose the area of the cage where it is most comfortable. The warmest extreme of the cage should be between 90-95 degrees Fahrenheit, while the cooler side of the cage should be between 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit. It is extremely important that the snake is provided with this thermal gradient so they can escape the heat, if it is not provided, your pet may suffer from heat exhaustion and possibly die! At night there should be a slight drop in temperature, preferably of about ten degrees. This will help promote certain natural behaviors for the snake, and will also help to recreate the natural drop in temperature that the snake would experience in the wild. A ceramic heat emitter is the perfect way to provide heat at night and during the day because it does not produce light but rather emits a radiant heat. Still, I prefer to use a fluorescent or incandescent bulb during the day to provide light.

Feeding Feeding is straight forward. Rodents of an appropriate size should make up most of the diet. Giant Hognose snakes will also greedily except small chicks and quail and can be offered periodically. The size of the prey item should be relative to that of the snake you are feeding. You should feed hatchlings frequently to ensure rapid growth. A pinky or two twice a week is a good regimen. For adults 1 or 2 mice once a week will suffice. We recommend feeding be done in an enclosure other than what the snake lives in. By doing this you reduce the likely hood of an aggressive feeding response when you open it's cage. The feeding container can be bear bottom to ensure that the snake only swallows it's food and not any bedding which can lead to a mouth infection or an impaction in the stomach. If you plan on breeding your animals make sure that your female has good body weight before she is bred. Wild caught snakes readily acclimate to captivity and will start feeding with little effort on behalf of the keeper. With that said, there are always exceptions. If you happen to get an exception you can try the following to get it to feed. To entice a reluctant animal to feed I recommend placing the animal in a restricted container such as a deli dish in order to keep the food and it's scent in close proximity to the snake and leave it alone for about 24 hours. As mentioned above, chicks and quail are relished by these snakes and if your specimen refuses to feed on rodent prey, perhaps you should change the menu. If this does not work you can also try a more grisly method in which the skull cap of a frozen thawed prey item is cut open exposing the brain matter and juices. This works with surprising results and most problem feeders cannot resist the smell of brains.

Water A dish of fresh water should always be available. Giant Hog nose snakes love the water and can be frequently found soaking in their dishes, especially after a meal. With that said, they will often times defecate in their water dishes so keeping their water dish clean is of utmost importance.

A Note on Venom There are no known fatalities from Giant Hog nose. Since they have a primitive means of venom delivery; they are not likely to pose a threat to a healthy adult. Always be aware of the possibility of an allergic reaction or anaphylactic shock.

Regardless they must be handled with respect and caution; proper handling tools (snake hooks/tongs etc.) should be used while working with this species.