Image Credit : Mickael Leger Photographie
Tricolor hognose snake also known as Lystrophis pulcher is small and stout colubrid species. They mimic milk snakes or coral snakes with their red, black, and white ringed patterns.
Xenodon pulcher’s size and shape, in addition to its color, personality, feeding response, and upturned hog nose are some of the reasons that this species is gaining popularity in the recent years.
- Scientific name : Xenodon pulcher
- Distribution : Southwest Brazil (Mato Grosso do Sul), East Bolivia, Northern Paraguay, Northern Argentina
- Average Size : 0.6 m (2 ft)
- Lifespan : 7 years or more
- Difficulty : Intermediate
I setup my baby Xenodon pulcher in a separate, escape-proof, plastic shoe box with air holes or a similar style enclosure. This species tends to be fossorial (prone to burrowing), so you mostly see them when they are hungry. Slightly elevate one end of the cage, then dampen the lower end leaving the upper end dry. Adult Xenodon pulcher are set up the same way, but in an enclosure of 0.7 x 0.3 x 0.3 meters (2.3 x 1.5 x 1.5 feet). Because they are terrestrial and burrowing, the height of a typical aquarium is not needed, just the floor space.
A hide box is recommended although it may not be used if the substrate is suitable. A good recommendations is an elongate log suitable for the snake to completely conceal itself.
One of the keys to a successful enclosure for Xenodon pulcher is the kind and depth of substrate. My babies have been raised on coco chips (not finely ground coco), which makes a perfect bedding that absorbs water, usually without molding. Cypress mulch works too, but is not as absorbent. Most other beddings get moldy or grow fungus when too damp.
Lighting – Heating
It’s a good practice (but not required) to add in the enclosure UVB fluorescent tubes on timers that we change to simulate natural daylight hours depending on the time of year. They have also done well in a room with lots of windows that allow the snakes to experience varying seasonal photoperiods throughout the year.
I try to make sure the warmest spot of the cage is around 28-29 °C (82-85 °F) for temperature. You will usually find Xenodon pulcher preferring the cooler, dry side. But when digesting food or preparing to shed, they often utilize the wetter, warmer side. My ambient temperature is normally about 22 °C (72 °F) in winter and 25 °C (78 °F) in summer. A gradient is always preferable so that they can choose the best temperatures and moisture content for feeding, hiding, digestion, or shedding.
The adult Xenodon pulcher are being cooled down to 18-21 °C (65-70 °F) from December through January, while experiencing shorter days through the windows. Occasional meals are offered and consumed a couple of times per month. After about two months they will be warmed up.
Be sure to place a shallow water bowl in a corner of the cage. Babies are a bit naïve about finding water. Place the snake gently into the water bowl a couple of times a week for the first month or two. Once you notice it is rarely thirsty when placed in the bowl, it has probably figured things out on its own and no longer needs help finding water.
I run a heat strip along the damp side so it will evaporate the water and raise the humidity. Let the damp side become dry again before wetting it again. That assures that mold and fungus will not find a good, wet, place to grow for long periods of time. Xenodon pulcher need a moist place to hide, which can be provided by either dampening one end of the bedding, or using a small hide box with damp moss in it.
The rest of the cage can be dry to allow choice.
Baby Xenodon pulcher will have fed at least 6 times on unscented, thawed, pinkie mice before I ship them to you. Allow a few days of rest after receiving the shipment before offering the first meal. Buy a package of mixed size pinkie mice so you can feed the smallest first, progressing to the largest as the baby snake grows. A trick I use for those that do not immediately take pinkies left in their cages is to put the baby snake in a deli cup with just the thawed pink and snap on the lid. It will probably eat within an hour or two if it is hungry, although it might not want to eat if it is ready to shed. Then feed about every 5 – 7 days. The food item should be big enough to easily notice the stomach bulge, but not leave the snake’s midsection looking uncomfortably distended. Tricolor hogs grow really fast! As they grow, increase the size of the meal, or use two smaller items, as needed. They rarely regurgitate, unlike many corns and rats that become stressed by too big of a meal or incorrect temperatures, etc. But it is still possible, so don’t offer too large of food items.
The bigger they get, the more aggressive the feeding response. Adult Xenodon pulcher may leap out of their cages just like kingsnakes sometimes do when food is introduced. When in feeding mode, anything that moves is fair game! Once they are eating fuzzy mice, I usually just feed in the cage instead of a deli cup. But it may be best to use tongs or forceps to avoid fingers being mistaken for food.
If you decide to breed Xenodon pulcher, the females require constant feeding throughout the breeding season as they multi clutch. After 3 or 4 clutches, I stop feeding in the late fall and cool down so that they will stop producing eggs and get some rest.
Although I have never had a baby Xenodon pulcher try to bite me, they do move in a spastic manner reminiscent of coral snakes and many milk snakes. However, once they become used to handling, that behavior diminishes. They become very easy to handle as adults. Please note that tricolor hognose have the same sort of mildly toxic saliva that western hognose and other North American hognose snakes possess. The few people who have ever been bitten reported itchiness and swelling for a few hours to a few days after a bite. These snakes rarely offer to bite, although it is always a possibility with any animal.
You should pick out the dirty spots a few days after feeding, and replace the entire bedding when it appears or smells dirty. Timing will depend on the size of the cage, snake, frequency of feeding, etc. They are not as messy as cornsnakes because they are smaller – even though they eat A LOT for their size.
As mentioned in Humidity section, it is best to add a little damp moss in the hide box when its eyes go ‘blue’ a week or more before shedding. If the snake sheds in one piece, the humidity level is fine. If the shed is in many pieces, or sticks to the snake, it is too dry.
Potential Health Problems
Once they have fed the first few times, Xenodon pulcher are very hardy and easy to raise and breed. I have had fewer complications or problems with this species than I have had over the years with corn snakes.
The information contained in this care sheet reflect the opinions and methods of the mentioned breeder, based on their expertise and long-established experience.