Discover the 3 Types of Rattlesnakes in Missouri

There are almost 50 different species and subspecies of snakes residing in Missouri! That numerous snakes living in just one area may seem terrifying, but snakes are really one particular of the most typically misunderstood animals. Snakes in Missouri are useful, living quietly across the state as they assistance to retain the ecosystem well balanced. Of all the various sorts of snakes dwelling in Missouri, only 5 are venomous pit vipers, and 3 of these are rattlesnakes. How do you tell if a snake is venomous or not? How risky are these snakes, and wherever are they uncovered? Let’s get a nearer seem at the 3 kinds of rattlesnakes in Missouri.

A Tiny Track record on Pit Vipers and Rattlesnakes

Close up of a Timber Rattlesnake eye
Pit Vipers have warmth-sensing “pits” that support them to identify their prey, even in the darkish.

Scott Delony/W3faculties

All 5 of the venomous species of snake living in Missouri are pit vipers. Pit vipers get their name from the heat-sensing “pit” organs these snakes use to detect human body heat and identify their prey. These pits seem like two large holes on the snake’s confront, found involving its eyes and nostrils. Pit vipers have massive, broad heads with a triangular form, and necks that are distinctly smaller than their heads. These snakes also have vertical or slit-formed pupils that appear relatively like cat eyes. Pit vipers have massive, hollow fangs that they use to inject venom into their prey.

Three of the Missouri’s pit vipers are also rattlesnakes: the timber rattlesnake, the western pygmy rattlesnake, and the massasauga rattlesnake. Rattlesnakes have hollow, keratin rings on the finishes of their tails that type their legendary rattles. This normally would make them simple to recognize. However, several nonvenomous snakes can be mistaken for pit vipers. Some can extend or widen their necks when they experience threatened, generating them glance more like a pit viper. A lot of nonvenomous snakes also vibrate their tails versus leaf litter to mimic a rattlesnake. In addition, rattlesnakes usually split their rattles from time to time, and it will take a while for them to reform. It is always intelligent to hold a healthy distance from any wild snake you are not sure of.

1. Timber Rattlesnake

Timber rattlesnaake coiled in a loop
Be thorough all-around timber rattlesnakes with effectively hidden camouflage.

Frode Jacobsen/W3schools

The timber rattlesnake life in scattered populations throughout all of Missouri. This snake prefers rocky or rugged areas with hills and ledges covered in forests and woodlands. Timber rattlesnakes are skillful climbers, scaling tall trees and bushes in search of prey. All through the spring and fall, timber rattlesnakes often bask in the sunlight on bluffs and rock ledges that facial area the south. They also expend substantially of their time hiding underneath substantial rocks or fallen logs as they hold out for prey animals to go by, or when they are digesting a new food. When the climate is too hot for these snakes, they will only hunt at night, early in the early morning, or in the evenings when it is cooler. These snakes try to eat a broad selection of little mammals, as perfectly as birds on situation.

Appearance and Behavior

Timber rattlesnakes have massive bodies that can develop over 70 inches in length. On regular, having said that, these snakes are among 36-60 inches very long with huge, major bodies. Timber rattlesnakes are grey, brown, tan, or yellow, with darker V-shaped bands along the duration of their bodies. Their bodies conclude with a “velvet-black” tail and a significant, straw-colored rattle. Most timber rattlesnakes in Missouri also have an further orange or rust-coloured stripe managing down the middle of their backs. Their bellies are normally gray or tan with darkish speckles sprinkled all over. The they have keeled scales along their bodies, which usually means that they have texturized ridges on every single scale, providing the snake a coarse exterior.

The shades, patterns, and texture of timber rattlesnakes enable them to blend in with their bordering surroundings. This is a fantastic adaption for this snake, as timber rattlesnakes like making use of their camouflage to prevent becoming witnessed. Often a timber rattlesnake will hold out to use its rattle, preferring to stay concealed as significantly as attainable. However, if it feels threatened, a timber rattlesnake will coil up and vibrate its rattle loudly in warning, and possibly strike if it feels cornered or harassed. The venom of the timber rattlesnake is extremely unsafe and calls for speedy clinical attention. In Missouri, nonetheless, timber rattlesnakes are rarely encountered, and there have only been a handful of conditions of bites from these snakes.

2. Western Pygmy Rattlesnake

Western pygmy rattlesnakes generally have 20-30 round blotches working together the center of their backs.

Gerald A. DeBoer/W3schools

The western pygmy rattlesnake lives in the excessive south of Missouri. These snakes live alongside the border of Arkansas, and in the japanese Ozarks and St. Francois Mountains. Pygmy rattlesnakes prefer regions around glades, forests, rocky hillsides, wooded spots and meadows. These snakes often request shelter beneath shrubs, logs, rocks or brush piles. They also appreciate basking in the solar, commonly in rocky south-going through regions, in the vicinity of brush or shrubs, or alongside the side of the highway. In July and August when the temperature is hot, western pygmy rattlesnakes are typically lively at night time, often crossing streets in the darkish. On the other hand, these snakes are rarely encountered by humans.

Physical appearance and Habits

Western pygmy rattlesnakes are a person of the smallest rattlesnake species, measuring amongst 20-30 inches in duration. These colourful snakes have thick bodies with keeled or ridged scales with a rough texture. These snakes are commonly a brownish-gray or silver-grey coloration, with dark blotches and an orange stripe managing down the middle of their backs, and smaller darkish places together the sides of their bodies. The western pygmy rattlesnake has a very slender tail with 6-8 darkish crossbands right before its tiny rattle. It has a creamy coloured belly with dark irregular bars, and a black stripe jogging from each eye to the corner of its mouth. Juvenile pygmy rattlesnakes seem identical to adults but have a yellow-tipped tail that they use to entice lizards and frogs closer to consume.

Just about every western pygmy rattlesnake seems to have its individual particular person personality and exceptional behavior. For case in point, some pygmy rattlesnakes are calm and tend to stay motionless to prevent detection. Some snakes may possibly alternatively test to slither away quietly to escape threats, whilst other individuals will boldly stand their floor by coiling, rattling their tails, and hanging at anything at all that will come around them. Nonetheless, due to the fact of their little dimension, western pygmy rattlesnakes have very small rattles on the close of their tails. When these snakes vibrate their tails, the compact rattle does not make a very loud seem. A lot of report that the rattle of a pygmy rattlesnake sounds like a buzzing grasshopper rather than a loud rattlesnake.

3. Massasauga Rattlesnake

The title “Massasauga” implies “great river mouth” in the Chippewa language.

W3educational institutions/Shoemcfly

Initially there were two types of massasauga rattlesnakes living in Missouri. The initial, the jap massasauga rattlesnake, at the time lived alongside the Mississippi River Floodplain, north of St. Louis. Even so, this snake has not been observed in Missouri for a number of many years. However, point out experts check with that the community and visitor to Missouri retain an eye out for any sightings of this snake. If you materialize to see a snake that you feel may possibly an eastern massasauga, safely get a image of it and report it to the Missouri Division of Conservation. The eastern massasauga is also a federally threatened species.

Missouri’s other massasauga is the prairie massasauga rattlesnake. This snake is a subspecies of the western massasauga rattlesnake. Prairie massasauga rattlesnakes even now live in Missouri, but they have suffered intensive habitat reduction and human persecution. Simply because of this, the prairie massasauga rattlesnake is mentioned as an endangered species in Missouri and a species of conservation worry. There are only a handful of prairie massasauga populations still left in Missouri. They now mostly stay in the northwestern corner and a couple north-central areas of the state. This snake lives in wet prairies, bottomlands, lowlands by rivers and lakes, and marshes. Prairie massasaugas invest a great deal of the day basking in the sunlight, typically around ant mounds, crayfish burrows or matted vegetation. All through the winter these snakes brumate, safely tucked away in ant mounds, crayfish burrows or mammal burrows.

Look and Conduct

A compact massasauga rattlesnake with only one particular button on its tail. The rattle is basically a collection of interlocking scale segments, which make a buzzing sounds when the tail is vibrated.


Prairie massasauga rattlesnakes have stocky bodies that typically are only 18-30 inches lengthy, with keeled or ridged scales. These snakes are commonly gray or a greyish brown colour, with black, grey or brown blotches running along their backs, and 2-3 rows of scaled-down places along each sides of their bodies. Prairie massasauga rattlesnakes also have two dark stripes on both facet of their heads, lined with white. Their tails have dim bands near the rattle. The stomach of a prairie massasauga rattlesnake is grey with dark speckles. However, there are some massasaugas in north-central Missouri that have mainly black bellies in its place.

Prairie massasauga rattlesnakes are not commonly intense. Normally, these will very first try to mix in and continue to be nonetheless, or quietly slither absent from threats. Having said that, if a snake feels threatened, cornered or harassed, it can swiftly turn out to be really defensive and will strike if necessary.

The two the jap massasauga and the prairie massasauga are secured rattlesnakes in Missouri. It is unlawful to injure, eliminate or take any of these snakes from the wild for any motive. If you happen to see a massasauga rattlesnake in Missouri, remember to acquire a image and report it to the Missouri Department of Conservation.

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