Meet Michigan's only venomous snake, the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake

Posted at 2:18 PM, Jul 16, 2018
and last updated 2019-07-16 11:24:10-04

World Snake Day is on Tuesday and we want to tell you about the only venomous snake that is found in Michigan.

Michigan has the largest population of Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnakes in the country, despite the population declining. There have been 150 site reports in 5 counties over the last decade. The sightings tend to be in clusters, including in Oakland, Livingston, Jackson and Washtenaw counties.

The snake is usually found in or near wetland habitats in the state. Adult massasauga snakes are usually 18.5 inches - 30 inches long, but the record, according to MSU, is 39.5 inches. That's more than three feet.

Its body is gray or grayish-brown with dark blotches edged in white with spots down the back and sides. It also has a rattle on its tail.

MSU says the tail doesn't always rattle a warning, but it is a distinct segmented rattle. 

There are several lookalike snakes in Michigan, including the Eastern Milk Snake, the Eastern Fox Snake, the Eastern Hog Nose Snake and the Northern Water Snake. 

According to MSU, the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnakes are shy and will avoid humans. If it doesn't feel threatened, it will even let you pass without revealing location.

Most common bites tend to be at the boot top level when someone steps on or over the snake, because it can't strike very high above ground.

MSU says if you get bit, move away from the snake and wait for help to arrive, or go to the nearest hospital immediately. Try to move as little as possible because venom spreads more rapidly if you walk fast or run. Do not cut or use ice on the wound, and do not fit a tourniquet on the affected leg or arm.

There have been no reported fatalities from massasauga bites in more than 50 years.