Nature Center Animals
Our staff is completely ecstatic over the addition of three new critters to the Nature Center. These new tenants, all reptiles by classification, consist of one Western Hognose Snake, one Banded Water Snake and one Florida Softshell Turtle. The snakes are from Southern Reptile Haven, a rescue center based in Jacksonville, FL, while the turtle was donated to us from a local home. One thing is for sure…our new friends will be in good company with the other Nature Center animals as their roommates!
Hamilton (Hammie) – Western Hognose Snake
Hamilton (Hammie) is a western hognose snake. Found predominantly in southern Canada and throughout the central US and into Northern Mexico, they are relatively small, stout-nosed snakes. Their cousin, the Eastern Hognose Snake, can be found in the eastern half of the United States including Florida. Hognose snakes prefer woodlands with sandy soil, fields, farmland and coastal areas. These snakes have upturned “hognoses” for digging and burrowing to hide and catch prey. They feed on frogs, salamanders, small mammals, birds and invertebrates. Hognose snakes seem to be immune to poisons produced by toads and are equipped with large teeth (called rear fangs) in the back of their mouths that are used to puncture inflated toads so that they may be more easily swallowed. Western hognose varieties reach 2-3 feet, while eastern varieties can grow up to 4’.
Hognose snakes are best known for their harmless defensive ploys. When threatened, the hognose will emit a loud hiss as the snake forces air though its rostral bone structure. They can also flatten their bodies in an attempt to look larger and may strike repeatedly with their tough mouths that don’t actually bite. If all else fails the hognose will resort to playing “possum,” rolling onto its back with its mouth agape and, sometimes squirting out a foul-smelling musk as well.
Wallace (Wally) – Banded Water Snake
Banded water snakes grow from 2-4′ in size, ranging from light brown or reddish to black with darker crossbands. These bands may be hard to see as the snake ages and becomes darker. Banded water snakes can be found in the southeastern US Coastal Plain, from North Carolina to southwestern Alabama. They can inhabit nearly any freshwater area, feeding primarily on fish and small amphibians and are active both day and night. They give live birth to 15-20 snakes around late July.
Sampson (Sammie) is the Nature Center’s second Florida softshell turtle. Much like their name suggests, softshell turtles’ shells are covered with skin and are soft around the edges. They have long noses which they use with their long necks to stick up and breathe like a snorkel. Their feet are webbed and females are much larger than the males. Females may reach up to 24″ in length and males usually grow to around only 12″.
Softshell turtles can be extremely aggressive and have been known to bite each other and turtles of other species. This is probably due to the fact that they have less protection than their hard-backed relatives. Found in southeastern US in slow-moving bodies of fresh water with mud or sand banks, they will sometimes even enter brackish water near mouths of streams. Wild and domestic softshells will spend much of their time buried in the soft bottom with only their head exposed. They feed primarily on aquatic insects, crustaceans, mollusks, fish, waterfowl and amphibians, often hunting and chasing down their prey.
Come by the nature center and check out our new friends! Our naturalists would love to answer any questions you have while showing off our latest “babies!”