North Carolina parks officials warn walkers to watch out for 'Zombie snake' with a rather peculiar trait
The Eastern hognose snakes display 'cobra-like qualities' as they spread their necks and hiss loudly before resorting to more drastic defense mechanisms
Parks and recreation officials in North Carolina have issued a warning about a "zombie snake" that can be found around the state that tends to "play dead" to trick those around it into a false sense of security.
In a Facebook post, the North Carolina State Parks and Recreation department shared images of the Eastern hognose snake and warned residents of the state to stay wary of the reptile, which defends itself by lying on its back and pretending to be dead.
In a lighthearted public service announcement, the department wrote, "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."
Endemic to North America and found throughout the eastern parts of the US, from Florida and Texas to Minnesota, the most distinguishing feature of the snake is its upturned snout.
It's found in a variety of colors ranging from red, green, orange, brown, gray, black, or any combination thereof depending on the locality.
But it's the snake's unique defense mechanism that truly sets it apart.
ABC News, citing Amphibian and Reptiles of North Carolina, reported that the reptiles display "cobra-like qualities" initially before resorting to more drastic measures.
"When threatened, hognose snakes hiss loudly and spread their necks like cobras do, resulting in the nicknames 'puff adder' or 'spreading adder'," a statement from Amphibian and Reptiles of NC read. "They rarely bite during these displays, but they may strike repeatedly."
"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," the statement added.
While urban myth dictates that the snake, which can grow up to four feet in length, "can mix venom with its breath and is thus able to kill a person from a distance of twenty-five feet," such an assertion could not be farther from the truth.
The hognose is rear-fanged but is considered nonvenomous because its teeth inject mild amphibian-specific venom that is not harmful to humans. In a worst-case scenario, bitten humans who are allergic to the saliva have been known to experience swelling, with no human deaths documented.
The species was listed as Least Concern (LC) on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species in 2007 but has since presented an increasing conservation concern as a result of direct anthropogenic pressures including habitat loss and fragmentation, road mortality, environmental degradation, and intentional killing.