Laurie saw this little western hognose snake laying on the trail where someone might have stepped on or ran over it with a mountain bike. Laurie sent me the photo with the following description:
“Looks venomous to me. Since he was right in the trail at the high-traffic area, I found a longish stick and moved him as gently as I could. He reacted by writhing around with his mouth open and then acted like I killed him and laid there fairly still with his tongue still flicking. He was still only a foot or so away from the trail, so I put some leaves around to camouflage him, left him alone, and then went back to recheck after I lifted weights. I took the snake stick and very carefully brushed the leaves aside with great trepidation. Thankfully, he was gone, so I guess it was one of those reptile play dead acts that I’ve seen lizards do many times (but not so often with snakes). I was so glad that he had moved, since I had never seen a snake quite like him and I truly was afraid I had injured him very badly or even killed him.”
I saw the photo before reading her description, and recognized it was a western hognose snake, which I see very rarely anymore since our toad population has decreased (they especially like to eat toads). I asked why she didn’t photograph the death act, and Laurie said the snake was such a good actor that she felt like she had really killed it and wasn’t going to document what looked like her torturing and killing a poor little snake. She said it could have been in Hamlet for the act it put on writhing around before playing dead.
If you look up photos of hognose snakes, you will see that they have a large variety of colors and patterning depending on which part of the country they are in. The western hognose have the coloring and patterns that are much closer to rattlesnakes you see in the western part of the US than bull snakes, for example. Hognose snakes in the southern and eastern part of the country have very similar coloring and markings to water moccasins, copperheads and timber rattlesnakes.