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Scientific name: Sistrurus catenatus tergeminus


The average size of a mature Western Massasauga is 1.5 - 2.5 feet in length. The largest one ever recorded is 34.75 inches.


The Western Massasauga is a heavy-bodied snake. The body of the snake is light grey. The snake is marked by dark brown blotches along its spine, and two or three rows of dark brown on its sides. The blotches are sometimes outlined in black and often form into crossbands near the tail. The belly of the Western Massasauga is mostly white or cream with scattered black markings. The end of the tail has a rattle on it.

There is a cheek-stripe on both sides of the head that starts at the eye and runs diagonally down and backwards to the jaw. The top of the head is marked by two stripes that continue on to the neck.

The Western Massasauga is categorized as one of several primitive rattlesnakes in the genus Sistrurus. Unlike other rattlesnakes, these rattlesnakes have 9 enlarged scales on the top of their head.

The Western Massasauga has elliptical pupils that look like cat's eyes and like all pit vipers, has a heat-sensing pit between the nostril and eye on each side of its head. The Western Massasauga has a large, triangular head that is wider than the neck when viewed from above.


In the United States, the Western Massasauga is found in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas.
Map of US states the Western Massasauga is found in.
Map does not show area of true distribution, only the states in which there is a population.
Actual distribution in any highlighted state may be limited.

Western Massasauga
Photo used by permission:
© 2004 Mike Pingleton

Western Massasauga
Photo used by permission:
© 2004 Mike Pingleton

For more information on venomous snakes, please see the Venomous Links page.

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