Pygmy rattlesnakes are also called ground rattlers, because they are generally seen slithering along the ground in summer, or sunning themselves in quiet locations. They are rarely found far from a source of water, and they are good swimmers. Pygmy rattlesnakes range from southern Virginia to Oklahoma, and along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico to the Florida Keys.
This is one of the smallest of all rattlesnakes. Its tiny rattle is no louder than a buzzing insect, and cannot be heard from more than a couple of metres away.
Pygmy rattlesnakes spend a lot of time underground. However, these nocturnal snakes do not dig themselves but occupy burrows made by small mammals and tortoises. Although they are small, pigmy rattlesnakes often strike when disturbed. Unlike other types of rattler, this species does not rise up into a defensive posture. Instead, it sways its head from side to side before biting. The venom is rarely fatal to humans, but it is powerful enough to cause serious illness - and kill its prey.
Pygmy rattlesnakes hunt small animals such as mice, frogs and other snakes. They also eat insects, spiders, centipedes and newly hatched bird chicks.
Distribution: South-eastern United States.
Habitat: Woodlands near water.
Food: Lizards, snakes, mice and insects.
Size: 38 - 79 cm (15 - 31 in).
Breeding: Mating occurs over winter; young born in August.
Life span: 15 years.