Panther Island Adventures!

Panther Island is 2,800 acres of restored wetland and upland habitats situated in the northwest corner of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary's 13,000 acres. It is home to numerous plants and animals including the Florida panther and the iconic wood stork.
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Monday, February 14, 2011

Critter of the Week Feb. 14: Dusky Pigmy Rattlesnake (Sistrurus miliarius barbouri) VENOMOUS!

    The dusky pigmy rattlesnake is a short but thick snake, gaining lengths of just 12-24 inches. But don't let the size of this guy make you feel safe...they are a venomous snake as are all rattlesnakes. Many people feel this is a pretty aggressive snake, and one should respect it and give it a wide berth! All photos here were taken at a safe distance with a zoom lens. As you can see by the photo to the left, their camouflage works great! I almost stepped on this guy! Their rattles are small, and you don't typically hear them.
    The dusky pigmy rattlesnake is actually one of three subspecies of pigmy rattlesnake and is the only one found in Florida. The other two subspecies are the Carolina and the Western. All three subspecies have ranges overlapping in Mississippi.
    The rattles of rattlesnakes are pretty neat. They are actually formed from a series of nested hollow beads. These beads are actually formed from modified scales. Every time the snake sheds, a new rattle is added so the bigger fatter ones by the body are the newest. The very tip of the tail are the oldest rattles, and they do become more brittle as the snake ages and can wear down and break off at the tip. Newborn rattlesnakes don't have the ability to rattle until they shed their skin for the first time thus gaining an additional button for making the noise. Juvenile pigmy rattlesnakes actually have a yellowish-green tail tip (seen in the picture below).

      Dusky pigmy rattlesnakes can be found in a variety of habitats including pine flatwoods, prairies, ponds and lake edges, along canals, and freshwater marshes and swamps. They eat primarily small rodents and frogs but will eat insects as well.
       The female gives birth to 5-7 live young (ovoviviparous) and these newborns are approximately 6 inches long. Again, please respect these snakes and the important role they play in our ecosystems! And give them a wide berth for yours and their safety!!!


  1. Nice blog. I spent many happy days in the 'glades in the 60s and would love to swap stories. I found your blog looking for pix of Sistrurus. My blog is and has a variety of postings from bio to politica to philosophy.

  2. I was an intern at CSS in the winter of 1999. At the time there was an Eastern Indigo snake in residence at Corkscrew ( we called it Clyde, although I don't think we knew the sex of the snake for sure). Clyde had been given to Corkscrew after being removed from a home since it is (was?) illegal to have them as pets. It was a daily routine to take Clyde out for a slither in the butterfly garden or Living Machine, he was actually really good about reliving himself outside which was awesome since snake feces is not all that fun to clean up. So one day Clyde was out doing his thing and he slithered away faster than we had ever seen him move. My co-worker (who was supervising Clyde's activities) found him half way through a meal...of a Pygmy Rattler! We were all really happy for Clyde, knowing that he still had skills.