Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pygmy Rattlesnake

Pygmy Rattlesnake- Click to enlarge
Connie Johnson shared these remarks when she brought pictures of a Pygmy Rattlesnake to the last MN Chapter meeting:
 "Western Pygmy’s are small pretty rattlesnakes with a tiny rattle. Our personal observations show that they are most apt to be seen from the first of September to the middle of October.   This may be due to the temperature and light changes that encourage them to move toward their winter dens.
 This photos were taken on my farm road on a cool morning in the middle of September 2011.  Usually these snakes are pretty docile and don’t crawl away unless they are disturbed with direct contact.   This snake allowed me to get quite close for these photos and did not move his body although he carefully followed  me with slight head movements.  I was very respectful of his “space”.

Tom Johnson’s book, Amphibians and Reptiles of Missouri, tells us that this snake ranges in length from 15-20 inches long and is the smallest species of rattlesnake in North America.The color is described as brownish gray with small dark brown and black blotches.  The head has a distinct black stripe which angles from the eye to the corner of the mouth and the belly is dusky cream with irregularly spaced transverse bars."
The Western Pygmy Rattlesnake, Sistrurus miliarius, is found in the southern counties of Missouri.  It has an orange to almost pink stripe along its spine.  These slender snakes seldom reach 24 inches so their markings and the tiny rattle require close inspection.  Don't depend on hearing their faint high frequency rattle which sounds like a grasshopper.  

Although usual shy, they can occasionally be more aggressive.  Their bite can cause lots of pain but isn't likely to be fatal.  I know of one man who received multiple bites when he picked several of them barehanded out of a wood pile.  He ended up on dialysis from the accumulated toxin.  Bad decisions can produce bad results.

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