Eastern massasauga rattlesnake in exhibit

Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake

Scientific Name

Sistrurus catenatus catenatus

Class

Reptilia

Order

Squamata

Range

From the midwestern United States to New York and Ontario

Habitat

Wetlands and grasslands

Estimated Wild Population

n/a
Eastern massasauga rattlesnake in exhibit
IUCN Conservation Status: Lower Risk - Least Concern IUCN Conservation Status: Lower Risk - Least Concern

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Physical Description

Eastern massasauga rattlesnakes can reach up to 30 inches in length. Their cryptic coloration—irregularly dark saddles alternating against a lighter background—helps them blend into the leaves and branches of their wetland habitat, and their tail ends in a namesake “rattle,” a collection of modified scales. They spend the winter hibernating in underwater burrows, where the cold temperature induces a state of suspended animation until spring.

Interesting Fact 1

Eastern massasaugas rarely use their tail rattle to warn off predators, opting instead to stay motionless in the presence of intruders.

Interesting Fact 2

These snakes detect their prey via vibrations in the ground, a strong sense of smell, and heat-sensing pits on the sides of their face.

Interesting Fact 3

Although their venom is potentially life threatening, they aren't generally considered a threat to humans, as they are reluctant to bite and typically only do so when cornered.

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We cooperate with other members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to manage the zoo population of this species through a Species Survival Plan®.

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