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Massasauga rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus catenatus)

Massasauga rattlesnake
Massasauga rattlesnake

Personal Information
The massasauga rattlesnake is 2 to 3 feet in length, with brown body patches edged in black and a grayish-yellow rattle. “Massasauga” means “great river mouth” in Native American Chippewa. There are two of these snakes at the Zoo, one male and one female. The male, born in 2001, came to the Zoo in 2003, while the female, born in 2006, came to the Zoo in 2011.

Status in the Wild
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List status: Least Concern; endangered in New York State. The massasauga rattlesnake is at risk in its range due to bounty hunting, the illegal pet trade and draining and dredging of wetlands. Without management and added protection, this species could be lost in a great portion of its range. The Seneca Park Zoo takes part in the Species Survival Plan for the massasauga rattlesnake.

These rattlesnakes live in lowland areas, such as wetlands along rivers, lakes and marshes in Wisconsin through Central New York and Missouri.

Rodents, frogs and snakes make up most of the massasauga rattlesnake’s diet.

  • A massasauga rattlesnake is venomous, but a bite from such a snake would most likely not be fatal.
  • Massasaugas are ovoviviparous, meaning that they give birth to live young.
  • The favorite hibernation spot for a massasauga rattlesnake is a burrow built in river bottom dugouts.
  • Massasaugas rely on their coloration to avoid being detected.
  • The size of the rattle on a massasauga rattlesnake represents the number of times it has molted, which can occur 3 to 5 times a year.