How The Massasauga Rattlesnake Breeds
The Massasauga rattlesnakes breed in two seasons – during the spring and in the fall.
The babies are born the following summer, usually in August. Once breeding takes place, there’s usually around a year to go before birth and in that time, there would have been one season of hibernation as well.
The Massasauga rattlesnake is ovoviviparous and this means that the young Massasaugas are not born from an egg but are born live. There are anywhere from eight to twenty at each birth. When they are born, they are small, just a few inches in length and they haven egg tooth that is non-functional. This could indicate that the snake could have evolved from the egg laying stage. Once the baby Massasaugas are born, they remain in the same place for around five days. This could be typically in a burrow or beneath a log of wood – wherever the mother has chosen to have her young. She usually finds a place that is secluded so that it is away from predators. The young remain here till they have shed the skin they are born with. The Massasauga rattlesnake sheds its skin up to five times a year so this is just the very first time of many skin-shedding sessions. The young snakes grow very quickly and the shedding of the skin or the molting is because the old skin is too tight for them.
Massasaugas take around two years to mature and their life span is fourteen years. Once they are grown, the same cycle occurs. Many Massasaugas are victims for larger predators like big birds. Of course, many of them fall a victim to the worst enemy of all – man. This could happen because their habitats are fast disappearing, being cleared for civilization or because men get scared when they hear the word ‘rattlesnake’ and kill them indiscriminately. Whatever the reason, the Massasauga has become a statistic in the endangered species list and it is up to us to make sure that it survives in the decades to come and not become extinct.