Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
Guest Mustangrde1

Dusky Pygmy rattlesnake caresheet

9 posts in this topic

Captive Care and History of the Dusky Pigmy Rattlesnake

By: Scott Bice


Sistrusus miliarius barbouri


Family: Viperidae

Genus: Sistrurus

Species: miliarius

Subspecies: barbouri

Common Names: Southeastern Pygmy Rattlesnake , Dusky Pygmy Rattlesnake

Continent: North America

Countries: United States of America

Region: The Dusky Pygmy Rattlesnake is found throughout the state of Florida. The species extends north to eastern North Carolina and west to eastern Texas and southern Missouri.

Habitat: These snakes occur in all terrains through their range. From upland scrub to the edges of swamp land. Often reported in cities as well as agriculture zones.

Prey: Snakes, Lizards, Frogs and small rodents.

Similar Species:

? Eastern Hognose " Heterodon platirhinos"

? Southern Hognose " Heterodon simus"

?Juvenile Watersnakes "Nerodia?s"

? Nerodia fasciata, Banded watersnake,

? Nerodia fasciata fasciata, Banded watersnake,

? Nerodia fasciata pictiventris, Florida banded watersnake,

?Nerodia floridana, Florida green watersnake,

? Nerodia sipedon pleuralis, Midland watersnake,

?Nerodia taxispilota, Brown watersnake


Country: United States of America

The Dusky Pygmy Rattlesnake is found throughout the state of Florida. The species extends north to Eastern North Carolina and West to Eastern Texas and southern Missouri.







This is a small rattlesnake in length averaging from 15 to 25 inches. The body is stout and cylindrical with a moderately long and slender tail with a segmented rattle. The rattle is not a distinct audible rattle as you would hear in the larger crotalids and is often confused with small insects? noises. The head is broad and distinct from a narrow neck. The eyes pupils are vertically elliptical. The Dorsal scales are keeled. The coloration can be from dark black with auburn patches along the back to light charcoal gray with white highlights and red blotches on the back.






Captive Husbandry



Acquisition or collection


When purchasing a pigmy or any animal, contact people that keep the animal you want, ask those questions and listen to them. When you contact a seller some questions you might want to ask are:

1 Has the animal been feeding?

2 Is it a wild caught or captive born?

3 Has it been wormed?

4 How big is it?

5 If wild caught do you know the location of capture or general area?

6 Get them to take pictures with numbers next to the specimens to aid you in your purchase.

7 Ask them what their shipping method and terms of service are.

Keep in mind venomous may legally be shipped airport to airport only. I know a lot of people who sell them think they are only a 25 dollar pigmy but it is there responsibility to help you as much as possible, you are the buyer. It should not matter if it?s a 25 dollar pigmy or 1200 dollar king cobra a seller must be willing to speak to you and aid you in your purchase from them. What they forget is that 25 dollar snake might mean return business in the future for higher dollar animals. Keep in mind in that venomous may only be shipped via air cargo such as Delta and the average box charge is 25 dollars. Shipping can be has high as 70 dollars. If a person wants to send it any other way DO NOT buy it.

If you intend to collect your own specimen check all local and State laws prior to collecting for legality.


It is important when collecting any species from the wild to note the exact location the animal was captured. This can be done by using a portable Global Positioning Satellite ?gps? devise. These items can be picked up through most sporting goods stores. If you can not afford or have access to one of these devices, my suggestion is to use your vehicles odometer. Simply zero it out and drive a straight line to the nearest permanent landmark, note down the mileage.


Strict quarantine procedures must be observed at all times in the event that the animal may need release. You do not want to infect the animal with a disease from your collection or infect your collection with a disease the animal may carry.



Quarantine Procedures


As with all newly acquired reptiles quarantine is a must. When I speak of quarantine I mean a room completely separate from the rest of your collection as to not introduce any unwanted pests or disease to your general collection. I personally use 90 day quarantine on any and all new arrivals.

First thing is in tank preparation, completely clean out the tank with bleach and water letting it stand for 15 minutes before rinsing it thoroughly, after rinsing and drying spray a heavy layer of "Provent A Mite" on the entire cage inside and out, paying special care to the rim at the upper inside of the tank. I let this stand for 20 minutes and then add cypress mulch for a substrate and then re-spray the tank again and allow to stand 15 minutes. One thing people overlook is the lid of the cage. Be sure to spray it as well. I repeat this procedure every 7 days throughout quarantine. When you dispose of the substrate, spray the inside of the trash can and the trash bag itself as well just to insure no external parasites try to get away. I have never had a mite or tick problem since I started using this procedure.




For 12 to 18 inch pygmies a 10 gallon size cage is fine. For anything over that a 20 gallon long size is perfect and will easily work for their life with you. Substrate can very greatly. I use cypress mulch or shredded coconut. A hide box is not needed as many pygmies will simply burrow in the substrate. However it is always a good idea to install one. Place a relatively good size hide box on the floor of the cage and cover it with substrate leaving only the entrance exposed.

Pygmies are not completely terrestrial but can be semi-arboreal as well. I have one that spends 90% of its time in a bush and even when feeding will strike its prey and hold on much like arboreal vipers. In the wild I have actually seen numerous pygmies hanging out in branches up to 6 feet high. My belief backed by observation is these small vipers will actually climb foliage in an attempt to hunt or flee rising water.

A water dish is a must and daily changing of the water is a must. A 40 watt full spectrum light in the 20 gallon size long cages and a 20 watt full spectrum in the smaller cages. They prefer a day time heat range from 83 to 88 and a night time range from 72 to 83. This species has been observed in all periods diurnal to nocturnal with the height of activity in the crepuscular hours.





Daily maintenance is a must. Watering can is done very simply by using a clean oil funnel to add water. If you need to clean out defecation or clean the water dish ALWAYS remove the animal. Just because they are small thinking that you can get in and out safely is not smart and can be a very painful mistake. They will hunt down their prey and your finger is about the size of food. Have a bucket standing by with a lid.

Pygmies do not ride hooks well at all. I have tried the double hook method and found it doesn't work well either. I use 24 inch tweezers which appears to work well without causing them undue stress so long as you do not apply a great deal of pressure. Usually getting them about 2 inches behind the head works fine. Be ready for a wiggle though and to have to start over. They are a very nervous snake which will strike readily so be patent.





Normal matting occurs in early spring with birth in the later summer months. The average size of the litter is from 6 to 12 live young that are from 4 to 7 inches on average. Several of the people I have spoken to suggest putting 2 males with every female and allowing ritual combat to occur. I have not found this to be required in my collection, however have observed this behavior in the field. The young will normally take a live day old pinky 14 days after birth.


With a gravid female it is advisable to set her up in a enclosure you can access from above as she gets close to the end of her pregnancy with a single piece of news paper for substrate. The young are very small and can easily blend in with any other substrates thus increasing the risk of envenomations to a keeper from not seeing them in the cage.


The juveniles should be removed from the birthing cage as soon as possible and set-up in individual cages appropriate to their size.




Unlike most rattlers which are ambush predators, based on observations in the field and in captivity I have found that they actually will chase down a prey item in an active stock. For pygmies from 12 to 18 inches large pinkies and fuzzies are perfect every 7 to 10 ten days. Animals from 19 to 24 inches, 2 hoppers every 7 to 10 days are fine and larger specimens can take large to ex breeder size mice with no problem at all every 14 to 21 days.



First Aid and Anti-venom


The bite should not be tampered with in any way. All rings or other jewelry on the bitten limb, especially on fingers, should be removed, as they may act as tourniquets. Contact 911 for assistance.


Antivenom Code: SAmPRO01

Antivenom Name: Polyvalent crotalid antivenom ( CroFab ), Ovine, Fab

Manufacturer: Protherics Inc. (US)


Antivenom Code: SAmIBM06

Antivenom Name: Antivipmyn

Manufacturer: Instituto Bioclon





Often I have heard people referring potential first time venomous keepers to pigmy rattlesnakes as a good first hot. It is my firm belief there is no such thing as a ?good first hot.? The right first hot is the one you have been trained to handle and work with by an experienced keeper of that species. There is no substitute for experience and knowledge.

Are pygmies a good beginner snake? I will let you decide on a scale of 1 to 10 in my experience 1 being easiest 10 being hardest or dangerous here is how I would rate it.

Aggression 9

Strike speed 8

Venom based on ld50 and confirmed bites 3

Handling with tools 10

Maintenance 7, Note: difficulty handling gives them such a high rating as removal from the cage can be dangerous and frustrating.

Feeding 3

Antivenom availability "US" 1

Availability 3

Total out of 80 = 44

Good luck and best wishes

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

This caresheet was so useful for my first pygmy care.

I have read this all and I learnt a lot about this mini fabulous animals from this caresheet!

Thank you very much!

Now my pygmy lives well at my home!

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

very interesting info ... and increase my knowledge ... thanks for sharing

Yes, this was very good information. I am going to move this thread to our new Venom List Keepers Guide forum, where we are putting together a collection of guides and care sheets.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes and no. I believe that it depends on two(2) things.


One being their feed cycle.


Second being temperature consistency.

Edited by PuzL

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0