Snakes in ‘hog’ heaven at Crow-Hassan Park Reserve

Hog-nosed snakes reintroduced to prairie

by Aaron Brom
ECM Publishers
John Moriarty is hoping the snake species’ biggest predator doesn’t harm the newest animals introduced to Three Rivers Parks’ Crow-Hassan Park Reserve in Rogers.

Photo by Aaron Brom
John Moriarty, senior manager of wildlife for Three Rivers Park District, holds a plains hog-nosed snake at Three Rivers Parks’ Crow-Hassan Park Reserve in Rogers. The goal is to reintroduce a dozen hog-nosed snakes, and it could take as long as 20 years before the snakes successfully spread throughout Crow-Hassan.

“The biggest problem snakes have is people,” he said.
The senior manager of wildlife for Three Rivers Park District is leading the park district’s newest reintroduction project, bringing plains hog-nosed snakes to the prairies of Crow-Hassan.

The hogs-nosed isn’t the first snake species Moriarty helped introduce to Crow-Hassan. About 20 years ago he spearheaded the effort to introduce bull snakes to the prairie, a vastly successful effort.
While bull snakes are now thriving at the park, not everyone is enthused about it, as Moriarty has seen headless snakes left on the side of popular trails used by horseback riders and hikers.
“There is no need to fear these snakes. They are harmless and don’t bite,” he said of the characteristic shared by both hogs-nosed and bull snakes.
The park district even placed signs at the trail head alerting park users to the presence of bull snakes and urging them not to harm the animals.
With the successful introduction of the much larger bull snakes, Moriarty and Three Rivers are now reintroducing the much smaller hog-nosed snakes. Bull snakes are commonly 4 feet long, whereas the hog-nosed max out at 2 feet. The nose is turned up and has the appearance of a hog’s nose.

Photo by Aaron Brom
John Moriarty, senior manager of wildlife for Three Rivers Park District, uses radio transmission to track down one of the hog-nosed snakes recently reintroduced at Crow-Hassan Park Reserve in Rogers.

Moriarty was recently at Crow-Hassan searching for the radio-transmitter-embedded hog-nosed snakes that were introduced to the prairie, and he found one of the elusive animals. The location information collected from the radio telemetry will be used to help manage the snakes in the future.
“You rarely see these snakes,” he said, noting that they prefer to be underground or hidden in the grass.
He said introducing hog-nosed snakes helps the overall diversity of the prairie system.
“It makes it run a little smoother, more finely tuned,” he said. “Animals make the prairie a complete house rather than just a building.”
Crow-Hassan is the largest prairie in Hennepin County. Moriarty said the goal is to reintroduce a dozen hog-nosed snakes. Five have been released so far and it could take as long as 20 years before the snakes successfully spread throughout Crow-Hassan.
“We don’t have a lot of snakes here, and we look at management of these parks as long-term,” he said.