Massasauga rattlesnake, Massasauga rattler (Ontario), Black massasauga, Black rattler, Black snapper, Gray rattlesnake (Iowa), Little grey rattlesnake (Canada), Muck rattler, Prairie rattlesnake, Spotted rattler, Swamp rattler, Víbora de cascabel (Mexico)
The Massasauga is a venomous rattlesnake species found in midwestern North America. Like all rattlesnakes, it belongs to the pit viper family. Massasaugas are grey or tan in color with a row of large rounded brown/black blotches or spots down the center of the back and three smaller rows of alternating spots down each side. Solid black melanistic examples are also known, as well as cases where the back blotches join with those on the sides. Young massasaugas are well-patterned but paler than the adults. These snakes have heat-sensing pits on each side of their smallish head and their scales are keeled.
Diurnal animals are active during the daytime, with a period of sleeping or other inactivity at night. The timing of activity by an animal depends ...
A carnivore meaning 'meat eater' is an organism that derives its energy and nutrient requirements from a diet consisting mainly or exclusively of a...
Terrestrial animals are animals that live predominantly or entirely on land (e.g., cats, ants, snails), as compared with aquatic animals, which liv...
Precocial species are those in which the young are relatively mature and mobile from the moment of birth or hatching. Precocial species are normall...
Oviparous animals are female animals that lay their eggs, with little or no other embryonic development within the mother. This is the reproductive...
Predators are animals that kill and eat other organisms, their prey. Predators may actively search for or pursue prey or wait for it, often conceal...
Venom is a type of poison, especially one secreted by an animal. It is delivered in a bite, sting, or similar action. Venom has evolved in terrestr...
NoNot a migrant
Animals that do not make seasonal movements and stay in their native home ranges all year round are called not migrants or residents.
Hibernation is a state of minimal activity and metabolic depression undergone by some animal species. Hibernation is a seasonal heterothermy charac...
Massasaugas are found in North America from Ontario, Canada, and western New York southwest to southeastern Arizona in the United States and northern Tamaulipas, Mexico. In Mexico, isolated populations exist in southern Nuevo León, north-central Coahuila, and Samalayuca, Chihuahua. These rattlesnakes live in various habitats ranging from swamps, bogs, sedge meadows, wet prairies and marshes to grasslands and forests. In the western part of their range, Massasaugas can be found in rocky hillsides, wetlands, scrub plains, desert grassland, and dry prairie.
Massasaugas are diurnal and lead a solitary life. During hot summer months, they are usually active early morning and late evening trying to avoid the heat of the day. Massasaugas stay active from April till late October and hibernate during winter in small abandoned burrows of other small animals. These rattlesnakes are very good swimmers and can even hunt their prey in the water. They detect prey with the sense of smell and with the help of heat-sensitive pits located on their faces. They can also feel vibrations and have good eyesight. When threatened, Massasaugas will warn or show aggression rattling their tail, coiling up and unexpected striking.
Massasaugas are carnivores; they feed on small vertebrates, including mammals, lizards, and other snakes, as well as invertebrates such as centipedes. Adults feed mainly on rodents, while juveniles usually prey on reptiles: more often lizards in western populations and snakes in eastern ones.
The breeding season for Massasaugas begins in the spring and can also occur in the fall. When females are ready to mate they shed their old skin and release pheromones that attract males. Females give birth to 5-20 live young usually in abandoned mammal burrows or fallen logs. The gestation period lasts around 3.5 months. Snakelets are born fully-developed and stay around their mother for a few days; after that, they disperse. Young Massasaugas become reproductively mature and ready to mate at 3 to 4 years of age.
The biggest threat facing Massasaugas is habitat loss. Historically, this has been due to human activity, and more recently primarily from natural forest succession. These snakes are also heavily persecuted because they are considered to be a threat due to their venomous and lethal bite.
The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the Massasauga total population size. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.
Massasaugas play a very important role in their ecosystem. Due to their diet habits, these snakes control populations of rodents and other small mammals as well as help control pests in agricultural fields.