Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake

Sistrurus Catenatus Catenatus

Scientific Name

Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake:  
Sistrurus Catenatus Catenatus

Distribution and Habitat

Geographic Range

These rattlesnakes can be found in central New York State and southern Ontario, Canada. They can also be found westward to the prairies of Iowa and Missouri.

Natural Habitat

The Massasauga can be found in wet prairies in their western range and bogs and swamps in the eastern part of their range. The northern snakes are found in rock areas and other wet, lowland habitats. They prefer moist places with mounds of grass or moss for sunning themselves, hibernating and having their young.

Physical Characteristics

  • They can measure 18-40 inches in length. The average Massasauga length is 27.5 inches. Their background is gray or brownish gray with nine large scales on the crown of the head.

Quick Facts

  1. Their name is derived from the Chippewa language, “massasauga” meaning “great river-mouth”.

  2. Massasaugas are also referred to as “swamp rattlers”.

  3. These rattlers are the smallest of three venomous snakes found in New York State.

  4. Eastern Massasauga rattlesnakes are shy and avoid humans when they can.


Amphibian and Reptile Center

Conservation Status

Least Concern: The Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake is common or abundant and is likely to survive in the wild.

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The Massasauga feeds primarily on small rodents, but may include other snake species, frogs or nesting birds.