This diminutive pit viper has a gray to grayish brown back, with dark, oval-shaped spots along the back and sides. Some individuals have a reddish stripe running down the center of their back. A dark gray to black strip runs from the eye to the jaw. These snakes have a skinny tail and a very small rattle, which sounds like the buzzing of an insect.  The belly is light colored with dark blotches.  The babies look like adults, but have a yellow-tipped tail.  The Pigmy Rattlesnake has keeled scales, a single anal plate, and facial pits.


A typical sized adult reaches 1.5 feet in total length.  

Habitat / Range: 

Pigmy Rattlesnakes are only found in the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area (Calloway, Lyon and Trigg Counties). Individuals are quite rare, and thus little is known about their habitat preferences in Kentucky.  In other parts of the Southeast, Pigmy Rattlesnakes habitat preferences range from upland forests to swampy areas near water.

Natural History: 

Pigmy Rattlesnakes are known to mate in the fall and in the spring.  As with all pit vipers in Kentucky, Pigmy Rattlesnakes give birth to live young (known as viviparity) in later summer to early fall.  Clutch sizes are unknown for Kentucky, but in other parts of their range these snakes typically give birth to 6 or 7 young. Pigmy Rattlesnakes eat mice, lizards, snakes, frogs and even centipedes.  They are likely eaten by Kingsnakes, North American Racers, birds of prey and large mammals.  

Notes / Miscellaneous: 

Pigmy Rattlesnakes are very rare in Kentucky.  If you’re lucky enough to see one, observe it from a safe distance and report it to Kentucky Division of Fish and Wildlife Resources.  It is considered a “Species of Greatest Conservation Need” by Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. Because of their small size, these venomous snakes are not considered as dangerous as Kentucky’s other pit vipers. Nonetheless, medical treatment should be sought if bitten.