'Zombie Snake' Plays Dead When Threatened

This special snake has lots of tricks to avoid becoming prey.
Jessica Miley

A snake that can fake its own death is going viral in the United States. The North Carolina State Parks and Recreation posted some pictures of the unusual snake on their Facebook page asking its followers to guess the snake's species as part of their Year of the Snake celebrations.


When threatened the snake species known as Heterodon platirhinos, or more commonly the eastern hog-nose snake, flips on its back, pokes out its tongue and even emits a rotting odor. This is a part of the snakes complex defense mechanism it uses to avoid becoming another animals dinner.

“Instead of watching clouds to see if we can keep weekend weather on track, let's play a game! Who is this 'famous' NC snake? A cobra? A zombie snake? It’s a harmless one. Learn more in our "Year of the Snake" program!” the Facebook post said.

Method acting animal

As well as being good at pretending to be dead, the method-acting snake can also mimic other, more dangerous snakes. In some cases, it flattens its neck and raises its head off the ground, in a similar fashion to a cobra.

At other times it hisses and pretends to strike with venomous fangs. But the eastern hog-nose snake is absolutely harmless to humans. Getting a bite from this animal will result in a slight sting, at most some itchy swollen skin. Their venom has been perfectly adapted to do damage to the snake's favorite foods of amphibians, especially frogs.

Year of Snake aims to educate

The snake is found throughout North America, but many are not familiar with it. As part of the Year of the Snake celebrations, the North Carolina State Parks are trying to raise the profile of many of their serpentine inhabitants through online quizzes and special events.

Contrary to popular belief 31 out of 37 species of snakes in the state are non-venomous, and even the six that have venom are not deadly to humans. Snakes are loved and feared across the world. For many their role in the garden of Eden has forever cast them in a poor light, but for others, snakes represent fierceness and power.

Snakes are often misconstrued as being dangerous due to misinformation. There are even rumors about the eastern hog-nose that it can spit venom up to 25 meters. Education campaigns like the one run by the North Carolina State Park help people to know what to do when they encounter a snake in the wild as well as better understand their important role in the ecosystem.

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