Dusky Pigmy Rattlesnake



Scientific name: Sistrurus miliarius barbouri (GLOYD 1935)
* Currently accepted name

* scientific names used through time

  • Crotalus miliarius – LINNAEUS 1766
  • Crotalophorus miliaris – GRAY 1825
  • Caudisona miliaria – FITZINGER 1826
  • Crotalophorus miliarius – BAIRD & GIRARD 1853
  • Candisona [sic] miliaria – COUES & YARROW 1878
  • Sistrurus miliarius – GARMAN 1883
  • Sistrurus miliarius barbouri – GLOYD 1935
  • Sistrurus miliaris [sic] – BÖHME 2005

Description: Average adult size is 12-24 inches (30-61 cm), record is 31 inches (79 cm). This is a small snake, but thick for its size. The top of the triangular shaped head is covered with 9 large scales. The body color is light to dark gray. A longitudinal row of black or charcoal, transverse blotches disrupts a reddish brown stripe running down the middle of the back. Dark spots on the side line up with the blotches. The tail is slender and ends in a small rattle. The belly is heavily mottled with black and white. The pupil of the eye is vertical (cat-like), and there is a deep facial pit between the nostril and eye. Juvenile coloration is like adults, but the tip of the tail is yellowish-green.


A. Top of the head (notice the large plate&mdash like scales on the top of the head)
B. Underside of the head (chin and throat)
C. Front (face view) of the head
D. Side of the head (notice the facial pit between the eye and the nostril)
E. Keeled scales
F. Elongated scales below the tail (subcaudal scales) are typically undivided

Range: The Dusky Pigmy Rattlesnake occurs throughout Florida, excluding the Florida Keys. Outside of Florida, it occurs north to eastern North Carolina and west to eastern Texas and southern Missouri.

Habitat: Common in lowland pine flatwoods, prairies, around lakes and ponds, and along the borders of many freshwater marshes and cypress swamps. Possibly the habitat in which Dusky Pigmy Rattlesnakes are most frequently encountered, at least in southern Florida, is the banks of canals running through marshes and prairies.


Comments: VENOMOUS The Dusky Pigmy Rattlesnake has a reputation for protecting itself. Its bite, while usually not life threatening, can be painful and result in the loss of a digit. Some rare cases have been fatal. It feeds primarily on frogs and mice. The rattle sounds like an insect buzzing.

Comparison with other species: The Eastern Hognose Snake (Heterodon platirhinos) and Southern Hognose Snake (Heterodon simus) are occasionally confused with the Dusky Pigmy Rattlesnake. However, it is easy to distinguish between the harmless Hognose Snakes and the Dusky Pigmy Rattlesnake. The Hognose Snakes have both an upturned nose (rostral scale) and round pupils, and lack both facial pits and rattles.