Dusky Pygmy Rattlesnake

Sistrurus miliarius barbouri


The Dusky Pygmy Rattlesnake is found throughout the state of Florida. The species extends north to eastern North Carolina and west to eastern Texas and southern Missouri.


This snake is at home in virtually all types of terrain.  In dry habitats, it often lives in gopher tortoise burrows.


“Pygmy” implies small. Adults measure only 15 to 22 inches and the record length is only 31.5 inches. Other common names for the pygmy rattlesnake are “pygmy rattler” and “ground rattler.” Their ground color is light gray to dark gray with irregular black blotches. There is also a series of reddish brown to orange blotches running down the back that may be more distinct near the head. On some specimens, these spots may be very muted. 

The pupil is vertical (catlike) and there is a deep facial pit between the nostril and the eye.

This snake is a pit viper and although the pygmy’s bite is typically not fatal, it has a predominantly hemotoxic that can be extremely painful.  In some cases, it can cause serious local tissue damage as well as nausea, vomiting and vertigo.

On small specimens, the rattles are very hard to see and hear. At best, these rattles, if not dampened by dew or rain; can sound like a buzzing insect.


Females are viviparous (retain egg sacs internally), the young hatch and give the appearance of live birth. The young have no parental care


Small mice, lizards and frogs.

Status in the Wild:



This snake is responsible for more snake bites in Florida than any other venomous snake.  Children should definitely be educated about this animal. Because of its small size, a child may believe this to be a "harmless" snake. Pygmy rattlers are often short tempered and since they don’t seem to avoid human settlements, they often turn up in the backyards of many neighborhoods.

Source: Web page, “List of Florida Snakes”, Copyright © 1999, 2000 Florida Museum of Natural History.