The internet is in a tizzy over a "warning" about a snake breed commonly referred to as "zombie snakes". The name "zombie snake" is a nickname for the hognose snake, which is native to the eastern half United States, including places in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and extending all the way to places like North Carolina and Texas.

The name "zombie snake" refers to a behavior this snake employs, literally rolling over and playing dead. A Facebook post from North Carolina State Parks and Recreation details this snake in an informative post as a part of their "Year of the Snake" program, informing people about the various snakes found in North Carolina.

Somehow this informative post turned into headlines from places like ABC NewsMSN, The Daily Mail, and even Minnesota's WCCO TV, all using some variant of the headline "Officials warn of 'zombie snake' that plays dead." With a headline like this, you (like me) might think this is an evil creature that plays dead to dupe potential victims. This is absolutely not the case, and the sad thing is that even though these places use headlines like this, some of these reports even admit within their stories that these snakes are not dangerous. Yes, despite the word "warning" used in their headlines.

Hognose snakes, or "zombie snakes", actually use this act of playing dead as a defense mechanism. When threatened, these snakes will initially flatten out out their necks and raise their heads kind of like a cobra, and sometimes will "feign bites", but will very rarely actually strike, according to Wikipedia. The namesake playing dead component of their defense often comes next, rolling onto their back. Some will even emit a foul odor or fecal matter and let their tongues hang out. Once the threat is passed, they will roll back over and go about their business.

These snakes are generally considered harmless to humans and would only bite in particularly rare instances of being threatened. Even then, their bites would not cause significant harm to a human. There's a video above about these snakes and their behavior if you want to learn more.

So, while the internet is trying to freak you out over a harmless snake with a unique trick, consider that there are two other kinds of snakes found in Minnesota that actually are poisonous. The Minnesota DNR explains that these two snakes are the Timber Rattlesnake and the Eastern Massasauga. While these two snakes to live in our state, they are both known only to live in the far southeastern counties of Minnesota, and encounters with humans are reportedly very rare.

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