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pygmy1.jpg (55188 bytes)  Bienville Parish  Photo: Mike Monlezun

The pygmy rattlesnake is an interesting "small" rattlesnake.  It is seldom seen, but by no means rare.  Their small size, almost always less than 2 feet but occasionally a few inches longer, renders them inconspicuous to the unobservant individual.  This photo is of a rather typical specimen.  The bluish color that may show up on your screen, though, is not the natural color, but rather the result of less than optimum scanning!  This individual is barely 15 inches long and is doing great on a diet of fuzzy mice.

This IS the "ground rattler.!"  Brown snakes (Storeria), Hognose snakes (Heterodon), and hatchling rat snakes (Elaphe) are among the snakes that are erroneously called ground rattlers.  I guess it is natural to want to sensationalize the stories that are told.  Some people think that it makes for a better story to say that the little snake crawling through their backyard was a "dangerous ground rattler."  They can justify their fear of snakes by claiming it to be dangerous, which could lead to a sympathetic response from others.   Being deathly afraid of a harmless brown snake that I would trust with a 2 year old just doesn't have the same effect.  So few people actually see these snakes that the term "ground rattler" probably shouldn't even be in their vocabulary.

The western pygmy rattlesnake occurs throughout the state for the most part.   Although specimens can be found in swampy areas in the southeastern part of the state, they are generally absent from the same habitat in the southwestern part of the state.  This individual came from near the town of Kisatchie in west central Louisiana. They are found most often in central and southeastern Louisiana.

I am including a link here to a site that would benefit anyone interested in pygmy rattlesnakes.  This is from research that is being done at Stetson University.   It deals primarily with the Dusky pygmy rattlesnake, Sistrurus miliarius barbouri, but it is a very informative site.  This link is to the information page: Stetson University Pygmy Rattlesnake Research Group


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State Checklist | Herping in LA | Links | Authors | State Maps