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An adult male Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake.  The typical pattern of the massasauga consists of dark brown blotches on the back and three rows of alternating blotches on the side over a grey background.

The belly is black with small white to yellow markings.

 
A gravid (pregnant) female Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake basking, showing the increased body size.  The gravid female will stay at a "gestation site" during part of the summer.  This is a "micro-habitat" within the snake's habitat.

The gestation site grants female rattlesnakes cover and easy access to a wide range of temperatures in order to incubate the young developing within their body.

 
A neonate (juvenile) Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake.  Newborn snakes are born with a yellow-cream "button" at the end of its tail. 

At birth, eastern massasauga rattlesnakes are already venomous and have the ability to strike prey.  These young snakes are small versions of their parents but lack a full rattle.  With age, this "button" matures into a series of rattles, forming the snakes tail.

 
A female rattlesnake soon after parturition.  The Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake produces young every two to three years.  Although some snakes do lay eggs, pit vipers such as the Massasauga are "ovoviviparous," the young are delivered live after hatching from internal membranous (thin tissue) eggs.

Six to twenty young, approximately 20cm long are born in late July or August.  Newly born snakes may remain beneath the protective cover at the birthing site for four or five days.

The young are on their own, receiving no assistance from the adults, as they begin their life in the world.

 

 

An Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake in its native habitat.  Cryptic patterns and colouration serve to break up the shape of the snake to better disguise it in vegetation, rocks, leaf litter and shadows. 

The massasauga can remain undetected with the help of its pattern, even at close range.

 
Vegetation and leaf litter are suitable cover, however, rock crevices like this abandoned crayfish burrow can provide a more stable shelter from the elements.  Massasaugas may also be found in mammal burrows, rock fissures and other openings which extend below the frostline.  The massasauga can only survive in a cold climate by way of hibernation in these areas.

The snake will bask near the "hibernaculum"  until daily temperatures become too cold to warrant continued exposure, usually late October to early November.  Although some species of snakes hibernate communally (two or more snakes per hibernaculum), massasaugas usually prefer a solitary hibernation.

 


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