Massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus)
  Danger- Poisonous

Description: Numerous dark brown blotches on a gray or gray-brown background. The tail banded light and dark. The pupil is elongate and vertical. There is a special sensory pit on side of head between eye and nostril.

Habitat: Grassy fields and prairies, in our areas is most abundant in wet sites.

Size: 7-30 inches long, our smallest rattlesnake.

Diet: Small frogs, lizards, snakes and mammals.

Natural History: When disturbed this snake typically sounds a warning by rattling their tail. Nonpoisonous snakes such as the Bullsnake may mimic this behavior by vibrating their tail against vegetation. However, only the poison rattlesnake has the specialize sound producing rattle on the tip of its tail.

Special sensory pits are used to 'see' infrared light. This makes the pit a heat detector and allows this snake to hunt warm blooded small mammals in total darkness.

Massasauga do not lay eggs, females give live birth 3-13 snakes. The young have a simple button rattle. Rattle segments are added each time the snakes sheds its skin. Warning: new born rattlers are small, but they are venomous.

Similar species:

  1. Dark brown spots down back, sides spotted with three rows of blotches distinguishes from Timber Rattlesnake, the only other rattlesnake that also occurs in SE Nebraska