PATIENT: Eastern Hog-nosed Snake, #11-0979
LOCATION OF RESCUE: Bath County, Virginia
CIRCUMSTANCE OF ADMISSION:
May 26, 2011
OUTCOME: Released on July 6, 2011
On May 25, an injured Eastern Hog-nosed Snake was found at Douthat State Park in Bath County, Virginia. The rescuer suspected that the snake may have been hit by a car or another vehicle. The snake was transported to the Wildlife Center the following day.
Eastern Hog-nosed Snakes are found statewide in Virginia and are known for their incredible display of defensive behavior. When cornered, the hog-nosed snake first typically inflates its head while hissing, coiling, and striking -- though it doesn't bite. The Virginia Herpetological Society has a few videos of this type of defensive behavior.
If the snake isn't able to deter the would-be predator with those actions, it actually will "play dead." According to the Reptiles of Virginia, "... the snake will lie on its back and become completely limp, as if dead. It will remain limp if it is picked up, but will roll over on its back if placed on its venter, as though all good dead snakes have to lie on their backs."
This particular hog-nosed snake pulled many of these tricks while the veterinary team examined it for injuries. This sort of behavior makes things tricky -- the snake actually did look like it was dying as it writhed around, became limp, and stuck out its tongue.
Fortunately, the Wildlife Center has other means of checking on the life of a patient like this -- vet student Dan pulled out the ultrasonic doppler flow detector. This machine uses ultrasonic waves to detect the flow of fluid -- so as the heart pumps, the "beat" can be distinguished. The snake was continually checked throughout the exam process -- the nice strong heartbeat showed that the snake was indeed just feigning death.
Despite its dramatic display, Dr. Miranda, Dr. Kelly and vet student Dan took some excellent radiographs on the snake. They found that the snake has three fractured ribs, and a good deal of air under its skin from its injury. Interestingly enough, radiographs also revealed a recent meal in the snake's stomach -- likely a toad or other amphibian, as hog-nosed snakes dine almost exclusively on this type of food. The snake also has an injured left eye.
The veterinary team is hopeful that, with cage rest and antibiotics, the snake will heal. The fear is that, if the snake becomes too active, one of those jagged ends of the fractured ribs may puncture a lung or the digestive tract. The staff will attempt to keep the snake as quiet as possible.
June 1 update
The Eastern Hog-nosed Snake is doing well -- the injury to the snake's left eye has been gradually improving. The veterinarians finished giving the course of anti-inflammatories on May 31.
The hog-nosed snake is fairly bright and alert -- though occasionally after treatment, it goes "belly up" once it's placed back in its enclosure! The staff will continue to monitor the snake closely as it continues to heal.
June 7 update
Not a whole lot to share on Eastern Hog-nosed Snake #11-0979 -- the snake is resting quietly and appears to be healing slowly. The hog-nosed snake is actually showing signs of getting ready to shed -- its eyes are turning a cloudy, blue-ish color and the skin appears to be more dull.
Just a few days after this hog-nosed snake came to the Wildlife Center -- another one was admitted -- from the same state park in Bath County. Eastern Hog-nosed Snake #11-1008 is a much smaller snake -- and he was found at the park with an old spinal fracture. At first, the little snake seemed like it couldn't move the back part of its body very well -- but after a little bit of time, and some testing, it showed that it was doing just fine! Here's a video of one of the "test crawls" done by Dr. Miranda and Dr. Dave.
Hog-nosed snake #11-1008 should be able to be released quite soon.
June 10 update
After shedding earlier this week, Eastern Hog-nosed Snake #11-0979 is taking a road trip today! Dr. Miranda, veterinary technician student Julia, an Eastern Ratsnake, and this hog-nosed snake are headed to Virginia Tech this afternoon to see board-certified ophthalmologist Dr. Pickett. Dr. Pickett is a friend of the Wildlife Center and has consulted on several other cases within the past couple of years, including a Bald Eagle, a Peregrine Falcon, and an Eastern Box Turtle -- just to name a few.
Dr. Pickett will be examining some snake eyes this afternoon -- and will offer his expertise on the prognosis of the hog-nosed snake's injured eye. We look forward to hearing the results -- and seeing the photos!
June 20 update
Dr. Miranda and student Julia had fun at Virginia Tech on June 10. Dr. Pickett examined the Eastern Hog-nosed snake's eyes and confirmed that the snake is indeed non-visual in its left eye. The lens of the eye is luxated -- meaning that it has been pushed forward, out of place. Dr. Pickett hoped that we would be keeping the snake for a couple more weeks -- just to see if the lens would reabsorb.
As of this morning, Dr. Miranda noted that the eye injury does look like it's doing just that -- the lens injury is starting to resolve. This doesn't mean that the snake will be visual again in that eye -- at this point, its just an interesting piece of medical information. The staff will be attempting to live prey school the snake to ensure that it can hunt with just one eye, though since snakes primarily hunt by scent, the staff anticipate that the snake will be releasable.
July 8 update
After passing a live prey test with flying colors, the Eastern Hog-nosed Snake was scheduled for one more ophthalmic examination. Dr. Miranda looked at the snake's eyes one final time on July 5 and cleared the snake for release. While still partly blind in one eye, the snake is otherwise healthy again and in good condition.
On July 6, the Douthat State Park ranger who originally rescued the snake came to pick it up for release back in the park.
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