Parks officials in North Carolina are alerting the public about a “zombie snake,” a mild-mannered critter indigenous to the state that often plays dead to defend itself from predators.
The Eastern Hognose snake — usually brown or gray with dark brown blotches — is known for lying on its back and pretending to be dead when it’s threatened.
“Instead of watching clouds to see if we can keep weekend weather on track, let’s play a game!” the department posted to its Facebook page Thursday. “Who is this ‘famous’ NC snake? A cobra? A zombie snake? It’s a harmless one.”
Hognose snakes possess mild venom that allows them to overcome toads before swallowing them, but their venom is not known to be toxic to humans, according to the Long Island Herpetological Society.
The snakes have mild disposition and rarely, if ever, bite, the society said.
However, they do put on quite a show when they are threatened, hissing loudly and spreading their necks like cobras — earning them the nicknames “puff adder” or “spreading adder,” according to Amphibians and Reptiles of North Carolina.
“They rarely bite during these displays, but they may strike repeatedly,” the organization said. “If the antagonist continues, the hognose snake will feign death by opening its mouth, rolling over on its back, and writhing around. If turned over onto its belly, it will immediately roll again onto its back.”
At average, Eastern Hognose snakes often grow to between 20 and 33 inches, according to the Florida Museum. The record largest Eastern Hognose grew to 45.5 inches.
While an old myth says that the Hognose Snake could mix venom with its breath and kill a person 25 feet away, that’s outright false, according to the museum.
“In truth, its breath is harmless,” the museum said.
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