Florida dusky pygmy rattlesnake or ground rattler
Sistrurus miliarius barbouri

Image copyright by Mardi Snipes.

Pygmy rattlesnakes are well named - babies can coil up comfortably on a quarter. Adults may measure up to 32", though most are less than 2'. Youngsters have bright yellow tails. Rattles are tiny and almost invisible even on the adults, and very difficult to hear even if you are standing close by. A pygmy rattlesnake's rattle sounds a lot like a small buzzing bee.

The body color of a pygmy rattlesnake ranges from pale grey-white to dark grey-black, with black saddles or blotches and sometimes a faint and uneven reddish stripe down their backs. They are the only North American venomous snake that is even partially striped, and their "stripe" is broken by distinct black saddles so that it looks more like a series of spots. Their scales are very rough and appear almost velvety - but don't pet them!

Pygmy rattlers can be moved using a snake scoop made of a plastic jug with the handle cut off, or a small hook. A coathanger makes a good small hook if you pull it out to full extension. You can also sweep these small snakes into a garbage can as this tutorial illustrates. They are agile and rather snappy, and can strike almost the full length of their own bodies. As with all snakes, their movement range increases as the temperature goes up.

This species is not thought to be capable of delivering a fatal bite to humans, though infants, the elderly and those whose health is compromised may be at more risk. The bite can cause serious necrosis, so immediate hospital treatment is warranted.

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Quick guide    Pygmy research page     Unversity of Florida     Coastal Reptiles

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