Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake

Sistrurus catenatus catenatus

Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake Identification

  • Gray or grayish brown with dark blotches edged in white and spots down back and sides
  • 18.5-30 inches long; record 39.5 inches long
  • Belly blackish, not patterned
  • Heavy-bodied; often found coiled
  • Gives birth to live young
  • Pit on each side of head between eye and nostril
  • Cat-like pupils
  • Wide, triangular head
  • Distinct segmented rattle
  • Tail thick, squarish; does not taper to a point like all other snakes in Michigan
  • Does not always rattle a warning; relies on pattern and remaining motionless to go undetected
  • Scales keeled; anal scale single

Look-Alike Snakes

Eastern Milk Snake (Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum)

  • 24-36 inches; Record 52 inches
  • Light gray or tan with brown or reddish-brown, black-bordered blotches running down back
  • Young similar to adults but blotches brighter red
  • Often Y- or V-shaped light marking on top of neck
  • Belly white with black checkerboard pattern
  • Scales smooth; anal scale single
  • Lays eggs
eastern milk snake
eastern milk snake

Eastern Fox Snake (Elaphe vulpine gloydi)

eastern fox snake
eastern fox snake
  • Eastern subspecies in Southeast Lower Peninsula only; western subspecies in Upper Peninsula only
  • 36-54 inches; record 70.5 inches
  • Yellowish to light brown with black or dark brown blotches; head reddish or orangish
  • Belly yellow with black checkboard pattern
  • Scales weakly keeled; anal scale divided
  • Lays eggs
  • Eastern subspecies is State Threatened

Eastern Hog Nose Snake (Heterodon platyrhinos)

  • 20-33 inches; record 45.5 inches
  • Most have dark spots/blotches on yellowish, reddish or brown background, but some solid black, brown or olive
  • When threatened, spreads neck to display two prominent black eyespots on neck and hisses; may turn over and play dead
  • Heavy-bodied
  • Flat head with upturned snout
  • Belly yellow-gray with greenish gray pattern
  • Scales keeled; anal scale divided
  • Lays eggs
eastern hognose
Photo by Earl Wolf
eastern hognose

Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sepidon)

northern water snake
northern water snake
  • 24-42 inches; record 55 inches
  • Light brown with dark brown or blackish blotches; older individuals may appear uniformly black
  • Belly cream with irregular rows of reddish or blackish half moon crescents
  • Usually found in or near water
  • Scales keeled; anal scale divided
  • Gives birth to live young
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