The Habitat Of The Massasauga Rattlesnake

The Massasauga is found in prairies and low lying places along lakes, rivers and marshes so it has been well named indeed as the name in Chippewa means ‘great river mouth’.

The geographical area where this rattlesnake is found is the belt that runs from New York to Ontario to Missouri to Iowa. One of the areas where there were many Massasaugas was in southern Wisconsin but the wetlands here have been dredged and the habitat for these snakes has long gone. According to records, there were many of them killed in the 19th and 20th centuries which also contributed to their dwindling numbers.

Today, you’ll find the Massasauga in parts of Ontario with small numbers in the bogs of Ojibway and Wainfleet. Though they were seen in great numbers in the Windsor area and in Lake Huron and Lake Erie, today there is but a small population where once there was a large one. They can also be found in the southwestern part of Ontario and the Niagara Peninsula as well as the borders of the Bruce Peninsula and the Georgian Bay. You also find a few on Manitoulin Island.

The Massasauga loves the wide open spaces and while the summers are spent in the drier areas, it prefers the wetlands the remaining part of the year. They hibernate during winter into holes in tree roots, burrows in the ground and caves. During their hibernation period, they need to be below the frostline level which is why they seek out holes that go deep into the ground. Unlike most other snakes, they do not follow a group hibernation pattern but find their own crevasses and sleep alone. They also love crayfish burrows and they hibernate here at a level that is quite close to the water level. They do not make burrows for themselves but look for readymade places in which to spend the long winter.

They feed on birds and small animals. This snake loves the marshes and the wetlands which is why perhaps with the clearing out of these areas in so many places, they find their natural habitat shrinking and their numbers shrink as well. They love the sun and they are very often found curled into a ball sunning themselves. They are shy creatures however and can stay for ages camouflaged and motionless among bushes.

With the snakes being put on the endangered list, there is hope that they will not become extinct but will start to increase by way of population.