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A Hillbilly Guide to Snakes: The Dusky Pigmy Rattlesnake.
Sistrurus Miliarius Barbouri... The Florida Ground Rattlesnake.
The dusky pigmy rattlesnake is referred to as Florida ground rattlesnake, hognose rattler, buzzworm, and Barbour's rattlesnake. It is a short and stocky member of the pit viper family in the United States.
The dusky pigmy rattlesnake is generally a gray to white color with black spots going down it's body. Sometimes they will have a light red or orange line that goes straight down the middle of it's back. The black spots will overlay the red line. The head is generally black with the same white and gray that matches on their body. Dusky pigmy rattlesnakes and hognose snakes are often mistaken for one another. The dusky pigmy rattlesnake's tail will be a light yellowish color.
The dusky pigmy rattlesnake's head is triangular shaped because of the large venom glands it has in it's cheeks. This makes the cheek area puff out and causes the triangle shape.
As mentioned the dusky pigmy rattlesnake is short and stocky. The average length for an adult is between 15 and 25 inches, but can be found up to 30 inches. In captivity they tend to get larger, but in the wild a specimen over 30 inches is pretty rare.
The dusky pigmy rattlesnake ranges through Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina. It is most commonly found throughout Florida where it can be found across the entire state.
Dusky pigmy rattlesnakes like being near constant water sources. They are most commonly found near marshes, canals, or on the borders of swamps. These areas are where they are most common, but they are not at all restricted to these types of areas. They can also be found throughout forest areas and grasslands.
In the wild dusky pigmy rattlesnakes primarily eat amphibians and other reptiles, however they will also eat rodents, birds, and large bugs such as spiders and centipedes. The dusky pigmy rattlesnake uses it's camouflage to blend in with it's environment. Then it waits. The dusky pigmy rattlesnake will sit completely still for days on end waiting for food to come strolling by. Researchers have documented dusky pigmy rattlesnakes that stayed in the exact same spot for over two weeks. They will also use their light yellow tail to imitate a worm and draw out potential prey. When the prey comes within reach the dusky pigmy rattlesnake will strike and inject it's prey with a venom that causes massive internal bleeding. Then it just waits for the prey to die.
So here's the scenario. The dusky pigmy picks a nice spot in some tall grass, maybe some foliage, or even sometimes up in a tree. Then it wiggles it's little yellow tail and waits. A frog comes strolling by and sees the yellow tail. To the frog that tail might look like a tasty worm or grub. The frog moves in to devour the tail. The dusky pigmy rattlesnake strikes. Depending on the type of animal, in this case a frog, the snake waits by watching as the frog slowly dies from the venom. Then the snake strolls up and eats it.
Interactions With Humans
The dusky pigmy rattlesnake is venomous. It is dangerous and should not be messed with. As it's name implies it does have rattles that are in place for warning predators away. The dusky pigmy rattlesnakes rattles are so small however that they often go unnoticed. Instead of the strong rattling sound that you are probably familiar with from giant rattlesnakes in movies, the dusky pigmy rattlesnake's rattles will let off a little buzzing sound that can be easily mistaken for a bug. Because these snakes are so used to sitting still for such a long time, bites often occur from people accidentally stepping on them. A bite from a dusky pigmy rattlesnake is rarely fatal, but can cause serious damage and pain. Anyone who is bit by one should seek medical attention immediately.
As with all venomous snakes, the wisest course of action when handling them is to not handle them. Most snake bites could be easily avoided by untrained individuals not trying to capture or kill venomous snakes.