Western Pygmy Rattlesnake (Sistrurus miliarius streckeri)


Venomous! This small venomous rattlesnake is identified by the reddish stripe down the backbone coupled with black cross-bands. The general background color is slate-gray.

The top of the head is distinctly patterned with a spear-tip pattern. This feature helps to quickly distinguish it from a baby Timber Rattlesnake, which can look similar but has a rather plainly-patterned head.

As with all of the pit vipers found in the state, the Pygmy Rattlesnake has heat-sensing pits. These occur between the eyes and nostrils, but are difficult to see in the species because they blend with the patterning.

The tail is tipped with a very small rattle that produces a sound reminiscent of a small insect buzzing. The sound carries only a few feet. In the young, the tail (just prior to the rattle itself) is a bright neon yellow or green.

This species is also known as the Ground Rattler. To those with some familiarity, they are simply Pigs.


This species seems to prefer wooded habitat and cedar glades. Prime areas are brush piles and edge habitats where forest meets field.

Habits and Life History

I have very little information regarding the habits and life history of this species in the state. Largely, this is due to the small size and secrecy of the species.

Females give birth to probably 3-6 very small young.

Pygmy Rattlesnakes may utilize "favorite spots" over and over. These may be preferred hunting or basking spots.

Prey and Hunting Techniques

Pygmy Rattlesnakes eat a wide variety of food items, including small rodents, lizards, and frogs.

Young Pygmy Rattlesnakes will use their brightly colored tails in a hunting technique called caudal luring. Essentially, they will twitch their tails and literally lure in their prey to within striking distance. This technique likely works best on small frogs and lizards.

Adult Pygmy Rattlesnakes are primarily sit-and-wait predators. While they may coil and wait for prey just about anywhere on the forest floor, they are also known to use hunting techniques also seen Timber Rattlesnakes. For example, they have been observed coiled at the base of trees and along fallen branches, presumably waiting for lizards or small rodents to run by. They may also coil in slightly elevated spots, such as in the upper part of brush piles or on rocky bluff-faces.

Temperament and Defense

Pygmy Rattlesnakes show a range of reactions that is almost always based upon the context of the encounter. One that is found perfectly coiled will likely remain motionless, using camouflage as its best defense. On the other hand, if one is encountered while it is on the move and vulnerable, it is likely to rattle and strike repeatedly in defense. As it moves away, it may puff-up and "body-bridge" in an effort to make itself look as big as possible.


This species currently has no special protections in Arkansas.

Pygmy Rattlesnakes are generally shy, unassuming, and secretive. This undoubtedly aids in their survivability.

As with many other organisms, the greatest immediate threat to this species is habitat destruction.

We must keep in mind that these snakes are generally found away from human habitation. When we visit remote wilderness areas, we must remember that snakes, too, live there and deserve every amount of respect and care that we give other creatures.

State Distribution and Abundance

This species is found nearly statewide. It does not range along the extreme eastern border of the state. Pygmy Rattlesnakes seem to be fairly abundant in some places while uncommon in others. Based on personal observations and anecdotal evidence alone, it seems that Pygmy Rattlesnakes are more common within a couple of miles of major bodies of water, such as larger rivers and lakes; except, of course, near the Mississippi River.



  • kaptainkory March 22, 2006, at 12:48 PM (Original Contributor)


  • Behler, J. L., and F. W. King. 1979 (1987). The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. 3rd ed. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 743 pp.
  • Conant, R., and J. T. Collins. 1998. A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. 3rd ed., Expanded. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston. 616 pp.
  • Irwin, K. J. 2004. Arkansas Snake Guide. Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Pocket Guide. 50 pp.
  • Trauth, S. E., H. W. Robison, and M. V. Plummer. 2004. Amphibians and Reptiles of Arkansas. University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville. 421 pp.


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