Pygmy Rattlesnake

Pygmy Rattlesnake

Eastern pygmy rattlesnake, Ground rattlesnake, Leaf rattler, Death rattler

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Order
Suborder
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Sistrurus miliarius
Population size
Unknown
Life Span
16 yrs
LENGTH
40-60 cm

The Pygmy rattlesnake is a small venomous snake native to the United States. The dorsal pattern of these snakes consists of a series of oval or subcircular spots with reasonably regular edges. The spots on the flanks are mostly round. Their belly is usually gray or dusky cream in color. Juveniles have a color pattern that is similar to the adults, although it may be paler or more vividly marked, and the tip of their tail is yellow.

Distribution

Pygmy rattlesnakes are found in the Southeastern United States from southern and eastern North Carolina, south through peninsular Florida and west to East Texas and Oklahoma. These snakes tend to live in flatwoods, sandhills, mixed forests, and floodplains. They are also found near lakes and marshes.

Pygmy Rattlesnake habitat map

Geography

Continents
Countries

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Pygmy rattlesnakes are generally solitary and interact with each other only during the mating season. They are diurnal and usually seen in the summer sunning themselves or crossing the road late in the day. Pygmy rattlesnakes do not dig their own burrows, but rather use those dug by small rodents or Gopher tortoises. These snakes hunt their prey by active pursuit, grabbing and flipping it around while simultaneously injecting venom to prevent injury by the victim. They also ambush lizards such as skinks by using their tails as lures, as is common in many other species of vipers. These snakes have a tiny rattle; it makes a buzzing sound that can only be heard from a few feet away. Some individuals are very aggressive and strike furiously, while others seem lethargic and do not even attempt to rattle.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Pygmy rattlesnakes are carnivores (insectivores). Their diet includes small mammals and birds, lizards, frogs and insects including giant desert centipedes. They also feed on other snakes.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
spring
PREGNANCY DURATION
3-5 months
BABY CARRYING
2-12 young
INDEPENDENT AGE
7-10 days
FEMALE NAME
female
MALE NAME
male
BABY NAME
snakelet

Pygmy rattlesnakes are monogamous and only one male mates with a female. He will continue to stay close to the fertilized female during her pregnancy and they can sometimes be seen coiled around one another. Pygmy rattlesnakes breed in spring and give birth to live young. The gestation period lasts from 3 to 5 months and litters usually consist of 2-12 young. Snakelets are born precocial (fully developed) but stay near their mother first 7-10 days of their life for protection. They become reproductively mature at 2 years of age.

Population

Population threats

There are no major threats to Pygmy rattlesnakes at present.

Population number

According to IUCN, the Pygmy rattlesnake is locally common and widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are stable.

Ecological niche

Pygmy rattlesnakes are important for their ecosystem as both a predator and a prey species. They prey on insects, small mammals, amphibians, and other small snakes thus controlling their populations. In turn, these snakes are preyed upon by hawks, owls, raccoons, kingsnakes, and other local predators.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Other common names for this species include: hog-nosed rattlesnake, little rattlesnake, miliar(y) rattlesnake, North American smaller rattlesnake, oak-leaf rattler, pygmy ground rattlesnake, small rattlesnake, southeastern ground rattlesnake, southern ground rattlesnake, southern pygmy rattlesnake, spotted rattler, spotted rattlesnake, southern rattlesnake. Older common names might include bastard rattlesnake, nipple snake, Carolina ground rattlesnake, brick red rattlesnake, Carolina pygmy rattlesnake, Catesby's small snake, dwarf rattlesnake, and grey rattlesnake.

References

1. Pygmy Rattlesnake on Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sistrurus_miliarius
2. Pygmy Rattlesnake on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/64347/12772862

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