Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake
Federal and State Protections
Federal protection through endangered species act. Protection through the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk in Canada. State protections include forbidding the collection and killing of this species and minimizing loss and degradation of their habitats due to agriculture, dredging, and stream channelization.
New York Status: Endangered
Illinois Status: Endangered
Iowa Status: Endangered
Missouri Status: Endangered; Species of Conservation Concern
Wisconsin Status: Endangered
Indiana Status: Endangered
Michigan Status: Species of Concern
Ohio Status: Endangered
Pennsylvania Status: Endangered
Minnesota Status: Endangered
Ontario Status: Threatened (Great Lakes - St. Lawrence population); Endangered (Carolinian population).
Countries of Occurrence
United States of America and Canada
Average: 61 cm; 2 feet
States or Providence
New York, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Ontario
New York: Onondaga and Genesee.
Illinois: Madison, Fayette, Clinton, Piatt, Warren, Knox, DuPage, Lake, Cook, and Will.
Iowa: Pottawattamie, Chickasaw, Bremer, Black Hawk, Buchanan, Clinton, Scott, Muscatine, and Louisa.
Missouri: Chariton, Lynn, Livingston, and Holt.
Wisconsin: Pipin, Buffalo, Trempealeau, Jackson, Clark, Wood, Portage, La Crosse, Monroe, Juneau, Adams, Saulk, Green Lake Columbia, Crawford, Madison/Dane, Green, Rock, Walworth, and Kenosha.
Indiana: Lake, Porter, La Porte, St. Joseph, Elkhart, Lagrange, Steuben, Jasper, Starke, Pulaski, Marshall, Fulton, Kosciusko, Walbash, Noble, Whitley, Allen, Wells, Cass, Carroll, Fountain, Montgomery, Hendricks, Hamilton, Delaware.
Michigan: Oakland, Livingston,
Jackson, Washtenaw, Allegan, Barry, Berrien, Cass, Kalamazoo and Van
Buren, Alcona, Alpena, Crawford, Kalkaska, Montmorency, and Presque Isle.
Ohio: Ashtabula, Trumbull, Erie, Wayne, Wyandot, Licking, Fairfield, Champaign, Clark, Greene, Montgomery, and Warren.
Pennsylvania: Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Crawford, Lawrence, Mercer and Venango.
Minnesota: Goodhue, Wabasha, Winona, and Houston.
Ontario: Eastern shore of Georgian Bay, the northern Bruce Peninsula, Niagara Peninsula, and near the city of Windsor.
A rare, small-bodied snake, the eastern massasauga can be found in the Midwestern and Northern United States and Ontario. They live in shallow wetlands (typically grassy, flooded prairies) and adjacent uplands, including early successional forest and fire-dependent prairies. Eastern massasaugas have been recorded using crayfish holes to overwinter below the frost line.
It is readily distinguishable due to its small size compared to sympatric timber rattlesnakes, and greyish coloration with circular or rectangular blotches along the body. Due to its small size, locals often call this species "pygmy rattlesnakes"; however they are a distinctly separate species than their cousins Sistrurus miliarius.
This rattlesnake usually gives live birth to 5 to 20 young at a time annually to biannually, sometimes once every three years if food resources are low. Eastern Massasaugas primarily feed on small mammals.
This is one of two federally threatened species of rattlesnake in the United States. The population of the eastern massasauga is still in decline primarily due to habitat loss. Fragmentation of habitat due to roads, farmland, and urban sprawl is a large factor in habitat decline. Conservation of rattlesnakes is important to prevent further population decline. This is something we are helping to slow and reverse!
Fun fact: Massasauga's get their name from the native Ojibwe word, "massasauga", means "great river-mouth" in their language. This is likely a reference to the riparian prairies which the snakes inhabit.