Rare Amelanistic Pygmy Rattlesnakes Born at CREW

Earlier this summer a rare occurrence was discovered at CREW. A dusky pygmy rattlesnake gave birth to six offspring, three of which were amelanistic – meaning they lack the dark pigment (melanin) in their skin. According to Kevin Enge , a herp expert with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, this is extremely rare and to have three of the six born amelanistic is quite amazing. No amelanistic pygmies have ever been documented before in Florida.

It is likely these three would not survive long in the wild because their rare coloration makes them easy to see and more vulnerable as prey. Below is a picture of the adult (with typical coloration) and one of the three amelanistic juveniles. Pretty cool, huh?

The location and the time of discovery were kept secret until after the young dispersed in order to prevent collectors from trying to find and collect them to sell. We assume that nature has taken its course, because after about five days the snakes had all moved on and haven’t been seen since early July.

Juvenile amelanistic pygmy rattlesnake
Juvenile amelanistic pygmy rattlesnake



Adult dusky_pygmy_rattlesnake
“Momma” Adult dusky pygmy rattlesnake


Wildlife Wednesday: Dusky Pygmy Rattlesnake

Dusky Pygmy Rattlesnake – Sistrurus miliarius barbouri – photo by Brenda Thomas

Pygmy rattlesnakes are commonly seen at CREW, especially during the late summer months of August and September. We seem to always have them hanging out by our office on the ramp leading up to the door. While small, pygmy rattlers are venomous and can produce a painful bite if provoked.

They feed on frogs and mice. Average adults are from 12 – 24 inches long. They are common in lowland pine flatwoods, along lakes and rivers, near marshes and  prairies, and here in southwest Florida are often seen along canal banks or curled up in a mulch bed or by a door frame.

It’s always a good idea to wear closed-toed shoes while hiking or when working in the yard if you have suitable habitat nearby. Being aware so as to avoid stepping on one protects both you and the snake. If you ever see one, you will marvel at the beautiful color and pattern of its scales. The best thing to do when you encounter a pygmy rattlesnake is to give it the respect it deserves, and leave it alone.

To find out more, go to the Florida Museum of Natural History’s Online Guide to Snakes.

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