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Public Asked to Report Sightings of Pygmy Rattlesnakes in Tennessee

Public Asked to Report Sightings of Pygmy Rattlesnakes in Tennessee

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is assisting wildlife biologists at Tennessee State University in research to determine the distribution of pygmy rattlesnakes in Tennessee.

The pygmy rattlesnake (Sistrurus miliarius) is listed as a threatened species in Tennessee and the research will help in conservation efforts to preserve the species in the state. Native to Tennessee, pygmy rattlesnakes are predators that are rarely encountered and play important ecological roles, including the control of rodent populations. These tiny snakes will rattle their tails when threatened, but bites are extremely rare and non-fatal if treatment is administered. Humans seldom see these snakes.

People can identify the pygmy rattlesnake by its small size and colorful appearance. It is only 15 to 20 inches in length with a gray or tan body color and an orangish-brown stripe running down the back, broken by a series of dark, usually bar-shaped blotches. One or two rows of dark spots run along each side of the body. The eyes have a vertical pupil. A wide, black stripe starts beneath the eye and slopes down to the corner of the mouth. The crown of the head has nine large plates. The belly of the pygmy rattlesnake is a dusky cream color mottled with dark bars. The sales are keeled, or ridged. Young pygmy rattlesnakes have a yellow-tipped tail.

Public Asked to Report Sightings of Pygmy Rattlesnakes in Tennessee

The pygmy rattlesnake (Sistrurus miliarius).

To aid their research, the TSU wildlife biologists are asking that anyone who happens to encounter a pygmy rattlesnake document the location by taking a photograph using a smartphone with the smartphone GPS location turned on. (For an IPhone, it is located in Settings/Privacy. Other phones or cameras will have similar settings.) This will provide GPS coordinates of the photo to document the exact location.

Previous pygmy rattlesnake sightings, along with photographs, can also be reported with specific location data and the date of the sighting. Persons are reminded not to harass or attempt to capture the snakes. The TWRA does not want anyone to endanger themselves.

Pygmy rattlesnake sightings and information may be reported to one of the following biologists: Shawn Snyder, Email: [email protected] or (717) 683-4226; Dr. Bill Sutton, Email: [email protected] or (615) 963-7787.

Funding for the project is being provided by the TWRA through state and tribal wildlife grants.