Taxonomy

Common Name: MASSASAUGA, WESTERN
Phylum: CHORDATA
Class: REPTILIA
Order: SQUAMATA
Family: VIPERIDAE
Genus: SISTRURUS
Species: CATENATUS
Subspecies: TERGEMINUS

Taxonomic Authority: (RAFINESQUE)

Taxonomy References: 002, 018, 028

Status

FEDERAL CANDIDATE
NONGAME
STATE ENDANGERED
STATE RANK S1
GLOBAL RANK G3G4T3T4

Status References: 023, 026, 005, 006, 031

Habitat Summary

Inhabit marshy areas, wet prairies, sloughs, rank vegetation around marshes and lakes, and floodplains of major rivers. Prefer areas with cattails, sedge, bluegrass, dogwood and hawthorn.

Primary Habitat: Wetland - wet prairie/meadow

References: 001, 003, 004

Distribution

General Occurrence in State:

Occurs in northern 1/3 of state *01*.

County Occurrence
Known Likely Unknown Not Likely Historic Extirpated
PLATTE KNOXBATES  
LEWIS MONTGOMERYBENTON  
LINN SCHUYLERBUCHANAN  
NODAWAY SULLIVANCLAY  
SALINE CLARKDADE  
ST. LOUIS GRUNDYDENT  
AUDRAIN HOWARDFRANKLIN  
HOLT MERCERGASCONADE  
RANDOLPH PIKEGREENE  
WARREN CARROLLJASPER  
ST. CHARLES LINCOLNNEWTON  
ANDREW MONROEOZARK  
CHARITON SCOTLANDPEMISCOT  
JACKSON ADAIRPETTIS  
  BOONEWASHINGTON  
  CALLAWAYBOLLINGER  
  LIVINGSTONCHRISTIAN  
  MACONHARRISON  
  MARIONMONITEAU  
  RALLSREYNOLDS  
  SHELBYWAYNE  
  PUTNAMCASS  
   COOPER  
   HICKORY  
   LACLEDE  
   MARIES  
   MORGAN  
   NEW MADRID  
   PERRY  
   POLK  
   RAY  
   SCOTT  
   STE. GENEVIEVE  
   TANEY  
   WEBSTER  
   WRIGHT  
   CAMDEN  
   MADISON  
   ST. FRANCOIS  
   STONE  
   BARTON  
   DAVIESS  
   DOUGLAS  
   HOWELL  
   IRON  
   LAWRENCE  
   MCDONALD  
   TEXAS  
   ATCHISON  
   CAPE GIRARDEAU  
   CRAWFORD  
   DEKALB  
   HENRY  
   JOHNSON  
   MILLER  
   MISSISSIPPI  
   SHANNON  
   STODDARD  
   WORTH  
   BARRY  
   BUTLER  
   CLINTON  
   DALLAS  
   GENTRY  
   JEFFERSON  
   LAFAYETTE  
   OREGON  
   PHELPS  
   RIPLEY  
   ST. CLAIR  
   CALDWELL  
   CARTER  
   CEDAR  
   COLE  
   DUNKLIN  
   OSAGE  
   PULASKI  
   VERNON  

References for distribution: 021, 024, 001, 003, 012, 016, 017, 020, 030

Distribution by Watersheds

Wyaconda R.
North Fabius R. and Middle Fabius R.
South Fabius R.
Miss. R. from Des Moines R. to MO. R.; and North R.
South Fork from Headwaters to North Fork
Cuivre R.
Dardenne Creek
Mo. R. from Nishnabotna R. to Nodaway R.
Nodaway R.
Mo.R. from Nodaway to Kansas City
Platte R.
One Hundred and Two R.
Grand R. from Shoal Creek to MO. R.
Chariton R. from Shuteye Creek to Mo. R.
Little Chariton R.
South Grand R.
Mo. R. from Kansas City to Little Chariton R.
Blackwater R.
Mo. R. from Gasconade R. to Miss. R.

Comments:
Likely to occur in units listed, based on county occurrence.

Distribution by Ecoregions

Central Till Plains

Distribution by Potential Natural Vegetation

Bluestem Prairie/Oak Hickory Forest
Oak-Hickory Forest

Distribution by Natural Divisions of Missouri

Glaciated Plains: Western
Glaciated Plains: Grand River
Glaciated Plains: Eastern
Glaciated Plains: Lincoln Hills
Big Rivers: Upper Missouri
Ozark Border: Missouri River
Ozark Border: Mississippi River

Habitat Associations

Species is associated with Terrestrial habitats

National Wetlands Inventory Association:

Palustrine

Aquatic Associations:

Palustrine, Scrub/shrub, broad-leaved deciduous
Palustrine, Emergent, persistent

References for Aquatic Associations:

001, 003, 004, 012, 014, 019

Habitat Types:

Perennial Grass (Warm season)
Fruiting Tree-Shrub
Marsh

References for Habitat Types: 001, 003, 004, 014, 019, 007

Terrestrial Natural Communities:

Prairie
Wet Prairie
Hardpan Prairie
Wetland
Freshwater Marsh
Pond Marsh
Marshes

References for Terrestrial Natural Communities: 001, 003, 004, 014, 007

Food Habits

Trophic Level:

Carnivore

Larval Food Habits

References for larval food habits:

Juvenile Food Habits

Reptiles; Juvenile stage
Serpentes (snakes); Juvenile stage

Comments for juvenile food habits:
Must have prey small enough to swallow. Young garter snakes important prey *09*.

References for juvenile food habits:
009

Adult Food Habits

Amphibians; Not Specified
Salientia (frogs, toads, peepers, tree frogs); Not Specified
Reptiles; Not Specified
Sauria (lizards, skinks); Not Specified
Mammals; Not Specified
Soricidae (shrews); Not Specified
Cricetidae (woodrats, mice, voles, lemmings); Not Specified
Birds; Not Specified

Comments for adult food habits:
Eat mice, shrews, frogs, lizards *01*. Meadow voles important in WI *09*

References for adult food habits: 001, 004, 009, 010, 011

Niche Requirements

Feeding Juvenile Niche Requirements

Inland wetlands: marsh
General habitat association specified in comments(00270)
Edge: woodland/grassland edge
Edge: grassland/water edge
Isolation from humans required; should be relatively inaccessible

References for feeding juvenile niche requirements: 001, 003, 004, 009, 010, 011, 014

Resting Juvenile Niche Requirements

General habitat association specified in comments(00270)

References for resting juvenile niche requirements: 001, 003, 004, 009, 010, 011, 014

Breeding Adult Niche Requirements

Aquatic vegetation: cattail (Typha)
Aquatic vegetation: bulrush (Scirpus)
Aquatic vegetation: sedge (Carex)
Aquatic vegetation: willow (Salix)
Aquatic vegetation specified in comments(00120)
Water level: saturated
Floodplain
Inland wetlands: marsh
Inland wetlands: slough, bayou
Inland wetlands specified in comments(00250)
General habitat association specified in comments(00270)
Edge: woodland/grassland edge
Edge: grassland/water edge
Successional stage: stable prairie/grassland
Shrubs: dogwood
Isolation from humans required; should be relatively inaccessible

References for breeding adult niche requirements: 025, 026, 027, 001, 003, 004, 009, 010, 011, 014, 019

Feeding Adult Niche Requirements

Aquatic vegetation: cattail (Typha)
Aquatic vegetation: sedge (Carex)
Aquatic vegetation: willow (Salix)
Aquatic vegetation specified in comments(00120)
Water level: saturated
Floodplain
Inland wetlands: marsh
Inland wetlands: slough, bayou
Inland wetlands specified in comments(00250)
General habitat association specified in comments(00270)
Edge: woodland/grassland edge
Edge: grassland/water edge
Successional stage: stable prairie/grassland
Leaf litter/ground debris
Downed logs
Isolation from humans required; should be relatively inaccessible
Other niche requirements specified in comments(99999)

References for feeding adult niche requirements: 025, 001, 003, 004, 009, 010, 011, 014

Resting Adult Niche Requirements

Aquatic vegetation: cattail (Typha)
Aquatic vegetation: sedge (Carex)
Aquatic vegetation: willow (Salix)
Aquatic vegetation specified in comments(00120)
General habitat association specified in comments(00270)
Other niche requirements specified in comments(99999)

References for resting adult niche requirements: 025, 027, 001, 003, 004, 009, 010, 011, 014, 019

Niche Requirement Summary

Inland wetlands specified in comments(00250)
Floodplain
Inland wetlands: marsh
Edge: grassland/water edge
Aquatic vegetation: bulrush (Scirpus)
Aquatic vegetation: cattail (Typha)
General habitat association specified in comments(00270)
Shrubs: dogwood
Isolation from humans required; should be relatively inaccessible
Aquatic vegetation: sedge (Carex)
Aquatic vegetation specified in comments(00120)
Other niche requirements specified in comments(99999)
Aquatic vegetation: willow (Salix)
Water level: saturated
Inland wetlands: slough, bayou
Downed logs
Edge: woodland/grassland edge
Successional stage: stable prairie/grassland
Leaf litter/ground debris

Comments for all niche requirement fields:
Code Comment
00120:In IL, found in areas with cattails, sedge, bluegrass, dogwood, and hawthorn *04*. In NY, overwintered in peatlands adjacent to swamp forest *25*. Use cordgrass marshes *12*. In IL, found in areas with cattails, sedge, bluegrass, dogwood, and hawthorn *04*. In Canada, used shore marshes and shrubby swamps dominated by reeds, sedges and willows *19*. In NY, gravid females remained in peatlands until parturition. Preferred areas with lower stem densisites of shorter woody plants. Preferred sites had more vascular plants than bryophytes *25*.
00250:Use rank vegetation around marshes and lakes *04,11*. In NY swamp forests, used areas with less canopy coverage and closer proximity to overstory trees and fallen logs *25*. In a MO study, were also found in farmland and along a railroad right-of-way adjacent to moist prairie *26*. In Canada, were strongly associated with wetlands and coniferous forests. Avoided open areas and mixed forests *19* use marshy areas and wet prairies *01,03,10,14*. In WI, use grassy margins of marshes and dry meadows *09*. In IL and Indiana, also use grassland-woodland edge, and rank vegetation around marshes and lakes *04,11*. In IL, may use woodlots *04*. In Canada, hibernacula included wetland and coniferous forest *19*. In MO, hibernate in upland prairie. Have been seen emerging from crayfish and mammal burrows *27*.
99999:A common characteristic of overwintering sites in NY was access to the unfrozen portion of the water table *25*. In NY, males and non-gravid females were found on hummocks. However, males were usually found near the center, where there was more leaf litter, and females were found at the periphery *25*. Seasonal shifts in habitat use observed in pennsylvania: early spring saturated soil. Late spring found in areas where soil was damp in spring and dry summer and fall, and vegetation was solidage-aster-cornus. Summer found in areas of danthonia-solidago-liatris interspersed with blocks of exposed, dry soil. Gravid females especially favored this habitat. Fall - found in either eupatorium-glyceria-solidago or low wet sites with olidago-aster-cornus. *15* in NY, overwintered in peatlands. Males and non-gravid females moved to swamp forests soon after spring emergence. Gravid females remained in the peatlands until parturition *25*.

Life History Information

Origin in state: native
Seasonal distribution in state: all seasons
Foraging strategy: stalking
Foraging strategy specified in comments(004)
Foraging sites: ground
Breeding season specified in comments(007)
Mating system: promiscuity
Mating system specified in comments(008)
Duration of pair bond: no pair bond formed
Nest/den site specified in comments(011)
Gestation/incubation period specified in comments(017)
Clutch/litter size specified in comments(018)
Number of broods/litter per year: one
Number of broods/litters per year specified in comments(019)
Development of young at birth/hatching: precocial
Parental care of young: no care
Age at sexual maturity specified in comments(022)
Sex ratio: 1:1
Basking site specified in comments(025)
Territoriality: non-territorial
Home range size specified in comments(028)
Periodicity: active at dawn or dusk
Periodicity specified in comments(030)
Limiting factors specified in comments(034)
Regulatory factors specified in comments(035)
Dispersal specified in comments(037)

Comments about Life History:
Code Comment
004:Kill prey with venom *01,03,04*.
007:In Indiana, breed April-June *11*. In WI, breed August-May *13*. In IL, breed in spring after emerging from hibernation (usually April to May or June) *04*.
008:Contains characteritics of both Prolonged mate searching polygyny (wide range receptive females) and female defense polygyny (male-male agonistic behavior) *029*.
011:Are viviparous *03*, but may take shelter in burrows of crayfish or other animals *01*.
017:In IL, gestation period is 15-16 weeks *04*.
018:In WI, litter size averaged 11 *13*.
019:Females have biennial reproductive cycle *029*.
022:Mature at approximately 3 years *04,13,22* when 50-55 cm snout-vent length *22*.
025:Bask on tufts of grass *11,14*.
028:In canada study, activity ranges averaged .25 km. Daily movements averaged 56 m per episode. Males used significantly larger areas than females *19*. In NY, activity ranges were 2 ha for gravid females, 41.4 ha for non-gravid females and 27.8 ha for males *25*.
030:Active April-November in Indiana *11*. A MO study found activity season to be April 15-October 24, with most captures in April, May and October and a noticeable lack of captures in July. Limited nocturnal activity occurred in mid-summer and early fall. *22*.
034:Limiting factors include cold winters *04*., young must find prey small enough to swallow *04,09*.
035:Predators include larger snakes and domestic hogs *11*. Two major sources of mortality at Squaw Creek NWR were road kills (especially in fall) and prairie fires *22*.
037:Dispersal is limited due to scarcity of habitat *12*.

References for life history: 022, 025, 026, 001, 003, 004, 012, 013, 014, 019, 029

Management

Beneficial Management Practices:
Agricultural - develop/maintain edge (ecotones)
Grassland - seasonal restriction of human use of habitats
Grassland - develop and maintain water holes, ponds, potholes, etc.
Grassland - maintain natural vegetation (native)
Grassland - maintain riparian habitats
Grassland - control grazing of domestic livestock
Grassland - prescribed/controlled burning
Grassland - develop/maintain edge (ecotones)
Water - develop/maintain lakes/ponds
Water - develop/maintain wetlands
Water - develop/maintain freshwater marsh
Water - control pollution (thermal, physical, chemical)
Water - burning marshes or wetlands
Water - develop/maintain streamside vegetation
Water - restrict human disturbance
Water - develop/maintain brushpiles along water's edge

Beneficial Management References: 022, 003, 004, 009, 010, 011, 012

Adverse Management Practices:
Shrub/brush - application of herbicides
Shrub/brush - application of pesticides
Shrub/brush - application of insecticides
Water - application of herbicides
Water - application of pesticides
Water - application of insecticides
Water - dredging and filling
Water - control aquatic plants
Water - stream channelization
Water - drainage of wetlands, marshes, ponds, lakes
Grassland - application of herbicides
Grassland - application of pesticides
Grassland - application of insecticides

Adverse Management References: 003, 005, 010, 012

Comments on Management: There is considerable geographic variation in habitat use and movements. Regional management should be based on characteristics of local populations, not on published accounts from distant localities *19* beneficial to maintain wetlands *03,04,09,10,11,19*, especially marshy cordgrass prairie *12*. Human disturbance is adverse *12*. Northwest MO studies recommended: 1)prescribed burns every 3-4 years, should be done before April 15 or after October 30 to minimize or eliminate mortality. 2)close section of road at Squaw Creek NWR during fall migrations to decrease road kills. 3)maintain a visitor-free area on Squaw Creek NWR where snakes will be free from disturbance. 4)monitor Squaw Creek NWR population on a regular (3 to 5 year) basis, best to monitor in April, may or October. 5)eliminate or reduce the use of heavy equipment on native prairie. *22*. a 1996-97 telemetry study at Squaw Creek found no snakes crossing the roads, and suggested that habitat improvements since 1993-1994 have reduced the tendency of snakes to migrate *26*.

References for Management Comments: 022, 003, 004, 009, 010, 011, 012, 019

References

Reference Code Citation
(001)Johnson, T.R. 1980. Snakes Of Missouri. Mo Dept. Of Conservation, Jefferson City, Mo. 12 Pp.
(002)Unpb Checklist Of Missouri Reptiles. Mo Dept. Of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, Mo 65102.
(003)Anderson, P. 1965. The Reptiles Of Missouri. Univ. Missouri Press, Columbia, Mo. 330pp.
(004)Wright, B.A. 1941. Habit And Habitat Studies Of The Massasauga Rattlesnake (Sistrurus Catenatus Catenatus Rafinesque) In Northeastern Illinois. Amer Midl. Nat. 25(3):659-672.
(005)Rare And Endangered Species Checklist Of Missouri. 1997. MO Dept. Of Conservation. Natural Heritage Database. 33 Pp.
(006)The Wildlife Code of Missouri. Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102. 573-751-4115.
(007)Kelly, G. (Ed.) 1986. Animal Habitat Relations Handbook. Mo Dept. Of Conservation and U.S.D.A. Forest Service. Jefferson City, Mo. 293 Pp.
(008)Thom, R.H. and J.H. Wilson. 1980 The Natural Divisions Of Missouri. Trans. Mo Acad. Sci. 14:9-24.
(009)Keenlyne K.D. and J.R. Beer. 1973. Food Habits Of Sistrurus Catenatus Catenatus. J. Herp. 7(4):382-384.
(010)Klauber, L.M. 1956. Rattlesnakes, Their Habits, Life Histories, And Influence On Mankind. Univ. Calif. Press. Berkeley. (Vol. 1and2): 1476 Pp.
(011)Minton, S.A. 1972. Amphibians And Reptiles Of Indiana. The Indiana Academic Of Science. Indianapolis. 346 Pp.
(012)Unpb Johnson, T.R. Mo Dept. Of Conservation. P.O. Box 180 Jefferson City Mo 65102. (573-751-4115)
(013)Keenlyne, K.D. 1978. Reproductive Cycles In Two Species Of Rattlesnakes. Amer. Midl. Nat. 100(2):368-375.
(014)Smith, P.W. 1961. The Amphibians And Reptiles Of Illinois. IL Nat. Hist. Surv. Bull. 28. 298 Pp.
(015)Reinert, H.K. and W.R. Kodrich. 1982. Movements And Habitat Utilization By The Massasauga, Sistrurus Catenatus Catenatus. J. Herpetol. (2):162-171.
(016)Unpb Missouri Department of Conservation Heritage Database. P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, Mo 65102.
(017)Johnson, T.R. 2000. The Amphibians And Reptiles Of Missouri, 2nd. Ed. Missouri Dept. Of Conservation. Jefferson City, Mo. 400 Pp.
(018)Collins, J.T. (Ed.). 1990. Standard Common And Current Scientifc Names For North American Amphibians And Reptiles, 3rd Ed. Soc. For The Study Of Amphibians and Reptiles, Herp. Cir. No. 19. 41 Pp.
(019)Weatherhead, P.J. and K.A. Prior. 1992. Preliminary Observations Of Habitat Use And Movements Of The Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake (Sistrurus C. Catanatus). J. Herp. 26:447-452.
(020)Daniel, R.E. and B.S. Edmond. 2002. Revised county distribution maps of amphibians and reptiles of Missouri. MO Herp. Assoc. Newsletter 15:16-38.
(021)Powell, R., T.R. Johnson and D.D. Smith. 1994. New Records Of Amphibians And Reptiles In Missouri For 1994. Missouri Herp. Assoc. Newsletter 7:5-7.
(022)Seigel, R.A. 1983. Final Report On The Ecology And Management Of The Massasauga, Sistrurus Catenatus, At The Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge, Holt County, Missouri. Mus. Nat. Hist., Univ. Of Kansas, Lawrence.
(023)Missouri Natural Heritage Program. 2004. Missouri Species and Communities of Conservation Concern Checklist. Missouri Department Of Conservation. Jefferson City, Missouri. 47 Pp.
(024)Daniel, R.E., B.S. Edmond and T.R. Johnson. 1998. New And Previously Unreported Records Of Amphibians And Reptiles In Missouri For 1998. Mo Herpetol. Assoc. Newsletter 11:8-17.
(025)Unpb Johnson, G. 1995. Spatial Ecology, Habitat Preference, And Habitat Management Of The Eastern Massasauga, Sistrurus C. Catenatus, In A New York Weakly-Minerotrophic Peatland. Ph.D. Diss., State Univ. Of New York, Syracuse. 240 Pp.
(026)Seigel, R.A. and M. Pilgrim. 1998. Habitat Utilization And Population Demography Of The Endangered Rattlesnake (Sistrurus Catenatus) At The Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge, Missouri. Final Report, Dept. Biol. Sci., Se Louisiana Univ. 23 Pp.
(027)Seigel, R.A. and M. Pilgrim. 1998. Distribution And Abundance Of Massasauga Rattlesnakes (Sistrurus Catenatus) At The Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Missouri. Final Report, Dept. Biol. Sci., Se Louisiana Univ. 9 Pp.
(028)Crother, B.I. (Ed.). 2008. Scientific and standard English names of amphibians and reptiles of North America north of Mexico, with comments regarding confidence in our understanding (6th ed.). Society for the study of amphibians and reptiles. Herpetological Circular No. 37.
(029)Jellen, B.C., D.B. Shepard, M.J. Dreslik, and C.A. Phillips. 2007. Male movement and body size affect mate acquisition in the eastern massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus). Journal of Herpetology 41(3): 451-457.
(030)Daniel, R.E., B.S. Edmond and J.T. Briggler. 2008. New herpetological records from Missouri for 2009. MO Herp. Assoc. Newsletter 22:7-9.
(031)Missouri Natural Heritage Program. 2013. Missouri Species and Communities of Conservation Concern Checklist. Missouri Department of Conservation. Jefferson City, MO. pp. 52.