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.
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 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.
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.
There are no major threats to Pygmy rattlesnakes at present.
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.
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.