Sistrurus catenatus tergeminus
- Common names: western massasauga, ground rattlesnake, Gulf coast massasauga, more.
is a venomous pitviper subspecies
found in the southwestern plains of the United States
. In some areas its range overlaps that of another subspecies, S. c. edwardsii
, and intergrading
of the two is not unknown.
Adults range in size from 35 cm to 91 cm. The standard length for 43 male and 63 female adult specimens was 68 cm. Conant (1975) mentions an average length of 46-66 cm, with a maximum of 88.3 cm.
The color pattern is similar to that of S. c. catenatus, but paler: the dark brown blotches contrast strongly with the tan-gray or light gray ground color. The venter (belly) is light with a few dark markings.
Western massasauga, ground rattlesnake, Gulf coast massasauga, Edward's massasauga, large ground rattlesnake, pigmy rattlesnake, prairie rattlesnake, Say's false rattlesnake, Sonora ground rattlesnake, Texas massasauga, three-spotted shield rattler, triple-spotted rattlesnake.
Found in the United States
in the southwestern plains from extreme southeastern Nebraska
and northwestern Missouri
, southwest through east-central Kansas
and west-central Oklahoma
into northern and central Texas
about as far southwest as the Colorado River
. The type locality
given is "between the Mississippi River
and the Rocky Mountains
Primarily found in grassland
areas, on the edge of open woodland, or on rocky hillsides, and often makes use of the burrows of other animals for shelter. They primarily eat rodents
, but they may also eat lizards
. Their rattles are significantly higher pitched than those of larger species of rattlesnake, sometimes giving them the nickname buzztail
. They are primarily nocturnal
, especially during the summer months when it is too hot for them to be active, but they will sometimes be found out sunning themselves. They are most often found immediately after rain storms.
Drop for drop, Massasauga venom
is more potent than that of many larger species of rattlesnake, but due to the lower yield (the amount it is capable of delivering in a single bite) its potential for harm is greatly reduced. They are not considered to be deadly, but the venom is a powerful hemotoxin
which can cause swelling, necrosis
, and severe pain. Medical treatment should be sought immediately for any venomous snake
bite. The antivenin CroFab
, while not type specific, can be used to treat severe envenomations from Massasauga rattlesnakes.