Information About the Snakes of North America - Pygmy Rattlesnake

Pygmy Rattlesnake

Pygmy rattlesnakes are very small. Adults rarely reach over two feet. The juvenile snakes have yellow tails, such as seen in the below photo. The rattles are very tiny, and can barely be seen or heard. The rattling may sound like a buzzing bee, if you hear it at all. However, this snake, though small and with inadequate warning, is very aggressive, and it has a nasty bite.

Pygmy Rattlesnake
Here is a photo of a Pygmy Rattlesnake.

Pigmy Rattlesnake
The Pigmy Rattlesnake (Sistrurus Miliarius) is one of the smallest species of Rattlesnakes to be found in the United States, and it is not the most dangerous rattlesnake that is to be found in the country either. This snake does have a reasonably large population, but they are very secretive so they are rarely seen, but they can become a pest or a danger if they are found in a domestic yard or garden. Because this species is one of the smallest of the rattlesnakes, its rattle is actually very small and this means that it is only audible from a very short distance away.

Appearance And Diet
The color patterns that can be found on the Pigmy Rattlesnakes can vary depending on its natural habitat, and these can vary with blotches and uniform patches running down the body which can be of various colors, from black and blue to dark green and various shades of red or brown. These snakes are not the most heavy bodied of snakes, and they will usually grow to between fourteen and twenty-two inches in length, but the largest known examples have been up to thirty inches in length. The head is generally in proportion with the body, and they will usually be encountered coiled up in the woods. These venomous snakes will eat a number of different small species, and these can include small frogs, insects, lizards and other small mammals. Their hunting technique is to ambush their prey by pouncing quickly from a hiding place among the leaf litter or other cover, and using their fangs to inject prey with venom.

Behavior And Habitat
Although the Pigmy Rattlesnake is a very small snake, this doesn't mean that it is calmer and more docile when it encounters humans, and is likely to strike if it is cornered or threatened. Fortunately, the amount of venom that it can produce will not be life threatening for the majority of humans, but it can lead to a significant amount of discomfort and would need to be treated. One of the problems is that it can be very well hidden, meaning that many people may get bitten before they realize that they are threatening to the snake, especially because the rattle is very small and is often inaudible to humans. They will prefer to live in a burrow if possible, but because they don't dig their own they will often be seen in those vacated by a Gopher Tortoise. The species is found in much of North Carolina, Oklahoma, Florida and Texas, and will often be looking for specific habitats that will suit their habits. This will generally mean that there is plenty of leaf litter, meaning that woodlands and mixed forests are particularly likely to be home to the Pigmy Rattlesnake, but sand-hills and marshes can also be home to these snakes.

Reproduction And Life Cycle
The mating season for this snake is during the spring, and the majority of snakes will usually give birth in August, and they do give birth to an average of around six live juvenile snakes. The larger the female is when she gives birth, the larger the offspring will be, but they are generally only five to seven inches in length. These young snakes will grow gradually for the first two years, and are independent from birth. They will usually grow into their sexual maturity in their second year. Unfortunately there isn't a large amount of research in terms of their lifespan in the wild, but those kept in captivity have lived up to twenty years, though those in the wild are likely to live for a much shorter time than this.

Here are some of my other snake info pages:
Guide to Florida's Venomous Snakes
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
Eastern Coral Snake
Water Moccasin a.k.a. Cottonmouth
Pygmy Rattlesnake
Timber Rattlesnake
Copperhead

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The Pigmy Rattlesnake
As its name suggests, the Pigmy Rattlesnake, or Sistrurus Miliarius to give its Latin name, is a fairly small species of rattlesnake, but it is still a species that is worth noting because of its large population and occasionally aggressive nature. For such a small animal the Pigmy Rattlesnake has picked up a lot of different names, including the dwarf rattlesnake, ground rattlesnake, oak-leaf rattler and spotted rattlesnake. All of these names and many more regional names refer to the same species, which can often be identified by the buzzing noise caused by its unusually small rattle.

Appearance And Diet
As one of the smallest species of rattlesnake to be found in North America, the adult snake is usually between one and two feet in length, although exceptional examples in captivity have grown up to two and a half feet in length. The coloration to be seen on the body of the snake is quite distinctive, and can be in a variety of colors including grey, brown, black and orange, with round spots running down the body of the snake. All of the color varieties in the species have an orange or brown dorsal stripe which can help to identify the snake. In some areas the pigmy rattlesnake is known as the hog-nosed rattlesnake, which refers to the flat snout that the snake has when compared with other snakes.

These ground based snakes generally eat small mammals such as mice and small rats, and this can be supplemented with frogs, lizards, centipedes and other insects. In rare cases the pigmy rattlesnake is also known to eat other snakes when food is in short supply. Their small size makes these rattlesnakes wonderful ambushers, and they will usually lie silently in wait concealed in leaf litter on the floor before attacking their prey. The venom in this small snake is still quite strong and hemorrhages in the prey which will die quite quickly, allowing the snake to eat.

Behavior And Habitat
For those people who are likely to come into contact with pigmy rattlesnakes quite regularly it is certainly worth noting that although these snakes are diminutive in size, they arenít timid. While some examples may seem lethargic and cautious, there are many of these snakes that wonít hesitate to attack if given the chance. Because of their small size one bite is unlikely to contain enough venom to threaten the life of an adult, but it would certainly put that person in some pain for a while. Another aspect worth noting is that the pigmy rattlesnake is active both in the daytime and at night, unlike many species which prefer one or the other.

In terms of the favored habitat of this little rattlesnake, one of the first things required for it to thrive is plenty of ground cover such as leaf litter or bushes close to the ground, along with a good population of small animals to eat. This means that woodlands and marshy areas tend to have a thriving population of these rattlesnakes, where they will use the burrows of small mammals rather than making their own. However, the main location that will see people coming into contact with these snakes is on the roads, where they seem to prefer to cross in the late afternoon and early evening. The pigmy rattlesnake can be found across much of the south and south east of the United States, ranging from Texas across to Florida.

Reproduction And Growth Cycle
Because of the small and elusive nature of the snakes there are varying reports about their mating season with many sources assuming a spring mating season, however observations made in a study in Florida actually reported mating occurring in the fall. Much like other rattlesnakes the mother gives birth to live young, with the neonates of pigmy rattlesnakes being between five and seven inches in length. These tiny snakes will stay with the mother for a few days until they first shed, before they venture off alone, to start hunting and fending for themselves.

The first year of life is crucial for the young pigmy rattlesnakes, as they will usually treble or even quadruple in weight in the first year, and will continue to grow rapidly for the second and third years. After this the growth will slow significantly to around half an inch per year, with all snakes having reached sexual maturity by this point. Not all snakes will mate successfully, with the larger and older males tending to have greater success in achieving a mate, as the males will often fight for the right to mate with a female. The lifespan of the pigmy rattlesnake is believed to be up to twenty years in the wild, but this is quite difficult to confirm due to the small amount of study that the species has been subjected to.

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