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Michigan is one of the last remaining strongholds of our only resident rattlesnake, the massasauga. Found in shallow wetlands and adjoining grassy areas, the maasasauga is the smallest and least venomous of all North American rattlensnakes. Ranging from about 24 to 30 inches in length, they are similar in appearance to several other Michigan snakes such as the milk snake and hognose snakes. It can be distinguished by its thin, vertical pupils, wide triangular shaped head and heat sensitive pits on each side of the head between the pupil and the nostril. These snakes are shy and non-aggressive and prefer to flee rather than fight. The massasauga has recently been listed as endangered by the USFWS mainly due to loss of wetlands throughout their range, and persecution by humans due to unfounded fears. Massasauga prefer to eat small rodents, such as mice and moles, as well as insects. Snakes can be very beneficial to humans, keeping pest populations under control. A monitoring program is now underway throughout Michigan and Binder Park Zoo plans to play and active role in the conservation of the massasauga. The zoo has several hundred acres of wetlands which is ideal habitat for this rare snake. We will conduct surveys for snakes on our property and continue to maintain habitat for these wonderful creatures. If you think you see a massasauga rattlesnake, note the time, date and location and contact the zoo or the Department of Natural Resources at 517-373-1263. Move away from the snake and never attempt to chase or capture them as they will bite if they have to defend themselves, but they prefer to be left alone. If someone is bitten by a rattlesnake seek medical attention immediately.

To discourage snakes from living around your home:

  • Keep grass cut fairly short
  • Remove brush or wood piles near house
  • Do not plant thick shrubs or plant right next to your home
  • To encourage snakes to live on your property:
  • Maintain existing wetlands
  • Keep or plant natural brush and vegetation
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