western massasauga has been found in southeastern
Nebraska. They are found in prairie or grassland
areas, often in marshy sites or on rock outcroppings
if available. The name massasauga is a Native
American term meaning "swamp dweller,"
referring to its use of marshy or wet habitat
small rattlesnakes are about 20-30 inches long.
Young massasaugas are born in mid to late summer.
They are about seven to nine inches long at birth,
and number two to 19 in a litter. Massasaugas
eat mostly small rodents, shrews, frogs, lizards,
birds and other small snakes.
approached, massasauga's remain silent and try
to retreat. If aroused or picked up, they will
following information is from Poisonous Snakes and
Snakebite in Nebraska EC89-1761 available from your
Nebraska Cooperative Extension office. The publication
covers tips for recognizing poisonous snakes, range
maps for poisonous snakes in Nebraska, avoiding poisonous
Snakes in Nebraska:
has four kinds of poisonous snakes - the prairie rattlesnake,
timber rattlesnake, western massasauga, and copperheard.
Nebraskans enjoy outdoor recreational activities such
as hiking, hunting, fishing and camping, and farmers
and ranchers often check fields by walking. Understanding
poisonous snakes will help you enjoy the outdoors without
undue fear of snakes.
chance of being bitten by a poisonous snake is rare.
However, snakebites do happen, so think before venturing
out where poisonous snakes occur.
for poisonous snakes, at a distance be alert for...
Blotched or banded body pattern. Several non-poisonous
snakes in Nebraska are also blotched or banded (like
the bull snake), but all snakes that have a lengthwise
stripes are non-poisonous (see garter snake photo below
A triangular head distinctly wider than the neck.
Other snakes including garter snakes, hognose snakes
and bullsnakes can also display this characteristic,
especially if alarmed.
A warning rattle - a buzz or dry, whirring sound.
Rattlesnakes usually, but not always, sound a warning
rattle. You may see rattles or a "button"
(first rattle) at the end of the tail. Some nonpoisonous
snakes, including bullsnakes, vibrate their tails rapidly
when alarmed; it can sound like a warning rattle.
In daylight, elliptical (cat-like) eye pupils
- see the photo above. Nebraska's non-poisonous snakes
have round eye pupils (see photo of garter snake at
Small pit on the side of the head between and slightly
below the eye and nostril. Snakes with this pit
are called pit vipers. All of Nebraska's poisonous snakes
are in this group.
handle or meddle with a poisonous snakes. Be aware that
killed snakes and even separated snake heads can bite
for some time through reflex action.
you know that rattlesnake heads that have been frozen,
dried and mounted into tie tacks have cause poisonings
when someone caught a finger or thumb on a fang!
for more information:
and Amphibians of Nebraska: Interactive Identification
Guide - University of Nebraska-Lincoln Cooperative
Snakes and Snakebite in Nebraska EC89-1761 available
from your Nebraska Cooperative Extension office. If
you live outside of Nebraska and would like more information
about the publication, email PUBS@unl.edu
Snakes Around Homes - University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Close-Up: Dr. R. Hays Cummins, Miami University, Web
Snake in Pond: S. Cochran