No, Eastern Hognose Snakes Aren’t ‘Zombies’ They’re Just Freakishly Good at Playing Dead

   06.13.19

Eastern hognose snakes are relatively common in many areas and harmless to humans, but one of its defense mechanisms used to thwart danger is really freaking people out – and the reason for its nickname, “zombie snake.”

Earlier this month, North Carolina State Parks and Recreation posted four photos on Facebook inviting folks to guess what type of snake was shown..

“Instead of watching clouds to see if we can keep weekend weather on track, let’s play a game!” the post read. “Who is this ‘famous’ NC snake? A cobra? A zombie snake?”

That last one really caught the attention of numerous news outlets, who then ran with it and nearly set the internet on fire – there were even reports that NC officials had issued warnings about the snake.

So, we wanted to set the record straight once and for all..

The eastern hognose snake has (somehow) figured out that by “playing dead” or “playing opossum” it can deter prey from eating it. It does NOT die and come back to life like a zombie. The snake will often roll onto its back and play dead, going so far as to emit a foul musk from its cloaca and let its tongue hang out of its mouth. Now that’s acting!

They feed extensively on amphibians, and have a particular fondness for toads. However, they will also chow down on frogs and salamanders.

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