The pygmy rattlesnake (Sistrurus miliarius) is one of the most common snake species found in the southeastern United States. It’s also known as the pygmy or ground rattlesnake because it burrows into the ground to escape from predators, usually into loose soil, grass, or leaf litter.
Pygmy rattlesnakes are small in size and can grow to about 24 inches (60 cm). They’re members of the pit viper family, which means they have a heat-sensing pit organ that aids them in finding prey and detecting predators nearby.
What is a pygmy rattlesnake?
A pygmy rattlesnake is a species of venomous snake, or viperidae, native to parts of North America. The species includes seven separate subspecies. Its scientific name is Sistrurus miliarius barbouri.
It is sometimes referred to as a pigmy rattler, dwarf rattlesnake or ground rattler. It belongs to the same genus as other types of snakes found in Canada, including timber rattlers and massasaugas.
These are pit vipers that have heat-sensing organs on their heads called pits for detecting prey. They are also capable of seeing color but rely more heavily on their sense of smell when hunting for food.
Pygmy rattlesnakes can be found from southern Ontario through to Georgia and west into Wisconsin. This particular type of snake is usually brownish gray with black markings on its back and sides.
The underside of its body has yellow or white blotches with black borders around them. Pygmy rattlesnakes typically grow between 18 inches (46 centimeters) and 24 inches (61 centimeters) long, though some specimens may reach up to 30 inches (76 centimeters). Males tend to be larger than females.
Where does it live?
The pygmy rattlesnake is found in desert regions throughout most of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and parts of California. These little serpents are also known to live in parts of northern Mexico.
Rattlesnakes can be found among a variety of habitats from short grasslands to rocky hillsides; however, these areas must contain rodent populations for food. The pygmy rattler is an insectivore – eating mainly crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars and spiders.
This species feeds mostly at night, but will also hunt during daylight hours when prey is scarce.
The average size of a mature adult Pygmy Rattlesnake ranges between 2-3 feet long (including rattle).
These snakes have an average weight between 5-10 ounces. This species has a life span of around 10 years in captivity. The largest recorded specimen was 4 feet long and weighed 1 pound 6 ounces!
Characteristics of the species
The pygmy rattlesnake, sometimes referred to as Stille’s pygmy rattler, is a tiny pit viper native to Florida. It grows up to 22 inches long and has thick scales covering its body.
The head is also covered with large shields, but unlike other snakes in its family (Crotalus), it does not have any visible rattle on its tail. Instead, when threatened or provoked, it will make a loud hissing sound that sounds like sssssss.
This species of snake is very venomous and should be avoided at all costs! If you are bitten by one of these creatures, seek medical attention immediately. There is an antivenin available for treatment, but it can only be administered if a person seeks help within six hours of being bitten.
Due to their small size and reclusive nature, encounters with these snakes are rare; however, if you live in Florida or Texas, there is a chance you could come across one during your outdoor activities. There are two subspecies: C. pyrrhus pyrrhus and C. pyrrhus texanus; both occur in North America.
Interesting facts about the species
This is a very small rattlesnake. It grows to about 6 to 10 inches, not including its tail. In fact, it’s one of the smallest rattlesnakes in North America! This snake isn’t actually indigenous to Arkansas, but was accidentally introduced through someone releasing one of their pets into their backyard years ago.
Since then, more have been spotted in other parts of Arkansas as well as neighboring states. These snakes tend to prefer living around rock ledges or outcroppings where they can easily hide from predators.
They are nocturnal creatures, meaning they sleep during most of the day and come out at night when temperatures are cooler.
They feed on smaller rodents like mice and rats that live near rocks or woodpiles in people’s backyards or farms. When hunting for food, these snakes rely on their excellent sense of smell to track down prey.
How do you tell if it’s a pygmy rattlesnake?
The key to telling whether or not you’ve found a pygmy rattlesnake is seeing whether or not it has a rattle. If it does, you’re looking at either an adult pygmy rattler or a juvenile Eastern Diamondback Snake.
If it doesn’t have a rattle, then you’re probably looking at one of two things: either a baby pygmy rattlesnake that hasn’t grown its rattle yet, or a juvenile Western Diamondback.
Juvenile Westerns are almost identical in appearance to juveniles of their smaller cousins (pygmies), making them difficult to tell apart. Fortunately, there’s a simple way to distinguish between these species based on location.
Both pygmy rattlers and Western diamondbacks can be found in Florida, but only pygmy rattlers can be found further north than Tampa Bay.
This means if you see a snake without a rattle anywhere north of Tampa Bay, you know it’s most likely a young Western diamondback. You’ll want to keep your distance from any snake without a rattle – they’re all venomous!
How do you identify if it’s venomous or non-venomous?
The easiest way to identify if a snake is venomous or non-venomous is to look at its fangs. Venomous snakes have two large, hollow fangs at their front upper jaw. These are used to inject venom into prey animals when hunting, killing them quickly so they can be consumed whole for sustenance.
Non-venomous snakes, on the other hand, have small teeth that cannot pierce skin but instead crush food in a separate gizzard or stomach. They do not need to inject poison into their meals, as they simply swallow them whole.
It’s important to note that even though a snake has venomous fangs doesn’t mean it will use them—only about 20% of rattlesnakes bite humans, according to National Geographic .
Instead, these snakes may choose to coil up and protect themselves with their rattle (hence why they’re called rattlesnakes). This is a warning sign to back off before you get too close!
What do they eat?
Small rodents, fish, frogs, insects, reptiles and birds. Pygmy rattlesnakes are oviparous (egg-laying) animals that typically lay their eggs in late summer or early fall after a period of hibernation.
Hatchlings emerge around mid- to late-spring of the following year. This time period is known as viviparity. Viviparous animals give birth to live young. In comparison, ovoviviparous animals such as sharks have an egg incubation period before giving birth to live young.
The female pygmy rattlesnake lays her eggs in abandoned rodent burrows and then abandons them. The male pygmy rattlesnake does not help with parental care for his offspring but rather seeks out other mates once mating season ends.
At one point, it was believed that pygmy rattlesnakes were only capable of eating smaller snakes. However, recent studies show that they also eat small mammals such as mice and voles.
Although there is little research available on these animals’ diets, it has been shown that they can be found hunting at night and during daylight hours during warmer months when prey activity increases.
Do they bite?
Yes, Pygmy rattlesnakes are venomous snakes; they do inject venom into their prey. However, they have tiny fangs (about 1/4 inch long) that make it difficult for them to bite humans.
In fact, out of all species of rattlesnakes in North America, Pygmy rattlers have one of the lowest rates of bites on record—only about 1 or 2 people per year are bitten by these snakes. The reason is that these small snakes live in remote areas where humans rarely go.
If you’re hiking through snake territory, though, be sure to keep an eye out for any signs of movement in your path. If you hear a rattle, back away slowly—rattlesnakes only rattle when they feel threatened.
These bites can be very serious if not treated immediately with antivenom, so it’s important to seek medical attention as soon as possible if you get bit. Fortunately, deaths from Pygmy rattlesnake bites are extremely rare.
What kind of symptoms will I have if bitten by this snake?
Pygmy rattlesnakes are venomous, meaning they can cause tissue damage when they bite. Fortunately, rattlesnake bites are not very common in the United States; however, their bites can be very serious.
Most snakebite victims will have swelling, pain, bruising at area of bite, weakness or paralysis of muscles in arm or leg bitten. A person may also experience nausea and vomiting (especially children).
If bitten by a rattlesnake always seek medical attention immediately. The following symptoms could indicate an infection: fever, redness around wound site, spreading redness or pus from wound site.
These symptoms require immediate medical attention. Bites from pygmy rattlesnakes should be considered life-threatening. To treat a bite, remove any jewelry near affected area, cleanse with soap and water, apply pressure to affected area with a sterile dressing.
Seek medical attention immediately after washing off snake venom because there is still some danger of envenomation while waiting for professional help to arrive.
If I get bitten, what should I do?
If you or your child is bitten by a pygmy rattlesnake, you should seek immediate medical care. There is no anti-venom specific to pygmy rattlesnakes, so treatment will be general.
The first line of defense is identifying that it was a pygmy rattler (and not another venomous snake). If possible, take a picture and/or note any distinguishing marks on its head.
It’s also important to identify where you were when you were bitten; if it was in an area that has seen an increase in population over recent years, there may be more snakes around than usual. All bites should be taken seriously, but bites from known populations are less dangerous than those from isolated populations.
What are some things I can do to avoid being bitten?: Avoid walking through tall grasses or other areas with lots of vegetation without wearing closed-toe shoes. Pygmy rattlers like to hide under rocks and debris during hot days, so don’t stick your hands into holes or cracks without thinking about what might be inside.
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