The western hognose snake is a complex of three subspecies ( H. n. nasicus, H. n. gloydi, and H. n. Kennerlyi) native to the mid-western United States and Canada. It, like all members of the Colubridae, is a relatively small-bodied, non-venemous snake. The grow to a maximum size of 50 to 60 cm, and tend to inhabit dry areas prone to flooding.
They are generally brown and black, and tend to mimic prairie rattlesnakes, although they are of considerably smaller size. They are toad specialists, and have a rostrum adapted to that purpose. Their common name is quite appropriate, as they have a nose that turns up into a little shovel which they use to dig frogs and toads up from muddy areas after rainfall. In the wild, they will consume lizards, small snakes and reptile eggs as well, but will survive on rodents in captivity quite happily.
They have two behavioural adaptations which make them quite comical and interesting snakes to the observer. First, like the cobra, they flatten their necks and hiss loudly in order to intimidate potential predators. Unlike the cobra, they do not raise their head, making the display somewhat less impressive. Particularly interesting, however, is their propensity to play dead if hissing and neck-flattening does not deter the predator. They will roll over onto their backs, and remain immobile, for the most part. What is quite amusing is that if you turn one of these snakes over again onto their belly, they will quickly flip back over onto their backs, causing one to think that while this is a neat behaviour, they are not particularly convincing actors.
I personally keep a breeding pair of these snakes, and highly recommend them to any amateur herpetoculturist. They are wonderful little animals.