- Identification – what species am I looking at?
- Conservation – how can avoid impacting their habit?
- Safety – have I taken steps to ensure I am safe?
If you can identify thee Massasauga rattlesnake, know how to help protect our species at risk, and be safe in rattlesnake country, you’ll be a Biosphere superstar!
- Have thick bodies compared to their thin necks,
- Have distinctive ‘bowtie’ or ‘saddle’ shaped dark-brown blotches along their back, outlined in white,
- Have a rattle at the tip of their tail. When they shake it, the rattle sounds like a buzzing noise. This is NOT a good way to identify this snake, as a Massasauga can lose its rattle, and other harmless snake species mimic the noise to seem more intimidating,
- Adults are between 50 to 76 cm, and younger snakes are 20 to 25 cm long,
- Have vertical ‘cat-like’ pupils, but if you can see them you’re too close!
- Closed-toe shoes! Think of it as a basic safety rule, like wearing seatbelts in a car. When you’re playing in rattlesnake country, wear closed-toed shoes like sneakers or boots.
- Before going into bushy areas, use a stick to poke around in them – that way you won’t accidentally step on a snake hiding there! Don’t reach into places you can’t see, such as when blueberry picking or playing in rocky areas.
- If you see a snake, leave it alone! Massasaugas are shy and non-aggressive, if you leave them alone they’ll leave you alone. If you hear one rattling its tail, figure out where the sound is coming from, and then calmly back away.
If a bite does happen, don’t panic! Massasaugas only bite as a last resort, and about a quarter of all bites are ‘dry’, meaning they don’t even have venom. If you or someone you know is bitten, make sure that they go to a hospital immediately – you can never be too careful!