Pygmy Rattlesnake

Sistrurus miliarius


The Pygmy Rattlesnake is a small species of rattlesnake found in the southeast US. It may be found in suitable habitat in a range that covers much of Mississippi, but is generally uncommonly observed. Habitat in the south is usually palmetto stands, sandhills, and piney forests. They are small, usually only about 2 feet in length fully grown (Powell et al., 2016). These snakes are brown, grayish, or reddish, with 1-3 rows of dark markings on the back. The center row of dark markings is often accompanied by reddish striping. The head may be compared to that of a cottonmouth in many individuals, with a dark eye bar and light markings on the chin. The western subspecies is the predominant one found in MS, but southern counties may experience morphological influences from the dusky pygmy rattlesnake, Sistrurus miliarius barbouri. This species is generally active at dusk or at night, and they feed on small mammals, lizards, and snakes (Behler & King, 1979). 

Adult Pygmy Rattlesnake crossing a road in South Mississippi

Identifying Traits

  • Small brown or grayish body with rows of dark markings and reddish middorsal line 
  • Dark “mask” across eye with white line below

Subspecies Present:

Western Pygmy Rattlesnake (Sistrurus miliarius streckeri)


Palmetto stands, sandhills, pine forests



Nocturnal hunters, occasionally seen active at dawn or dusk


Small mammals, lizards, and snakes, amphibians, and invertebrates

Juvenile actively hunting near an ephemeral wetland, South Mississippi
Adult Pygmy Rattlesnake, George Co. (MS)