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Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake Fact Sheet

  • Latin Name

    Sistrurus catenatus catenatus
  • Class

    Reptiles
  • Order

    Serpentes
  • Range

    Eastern massasauga rattlesnakes can be found from the Midwest to New York and Ontario.

  • Habitat

    These snakes favor moist landscapes, including forests, fields and marshes.

  • Niche

    The rattlesnake primarily feeds on small mammals, such as mice, shrews and voles. The species detects prey via vibrations in the ground, their strong sense of smell and heat-sensing pits on the side of the face. Using its fangs, the massasauga injects prey with venom before swallowing its meal whole. While massasauga venom is toxic, the species is generally not regarded as a threat to humans.

  • Life History

    The snakes mate in the summer and fall, with females giving birth to live offspring during summer. Young snakes are independent at birth.

  • Special Adaptations

    • Eastern massasauga rattlesnakes spend the winter hibernating in underwater burrows. The cold temperature helps the species enter a state of suspended animation until spring.
    • Cryptic coloration helps the species hide within its wetland habitat. The snakes' dark scales provide good camouflage among leaves and branches.

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2001 North Clark Street • Chicago, IL 60614 • 312-742-2000

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