See a rare pygmy rattlesnake? Snap a pic

Pygmy rattlesnake

The pygmy rattlesnake is a small, colorful rattlesnake about 15-20 inches long. He has vertical pupils, a thin tail, and a tiny rattle. The body color is gray or tan with an orangish-brown mid-dorsal stripe usually present. There are dark blotches, typically bar-shaped, running along the length of the back with one or two rows of dark spots along each side of the body. The head has a wide black stripe that starts at the eye and slopes down to the corner of the mouth. The crown of its head also has nine large plates. The snake’s belly is dusky cream-color mottled with dark bars. Scales are keeled (meaning they are usually rough instead of shiny and also have a ridge down the center of the scale). Young pygmy rattlesnakes have yellow-tipped tails. Source: Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. Photo by Greg Sievert

NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is asking anyone who spots a pygmy rattlesnake in the wild to snap a pic. The TWRA is assisting wildlife biologists at Tennessee State University in research to determine how the threatened species is distributed across the state.

The research will help conservation efforts. Pygmy rattlesnakes are predators that are rarely encountered and play important ecological roles, including the control of rodent populations. These tiny snakes will rattle their tails when threatened, but bites are extremely rare and non-fatal if treatment is administered.

The snakes are seldom seen by humans.

For more information about this native Tennessee snake, including descriptions and photos, go online to

Those who spot one of these creatures are asked to snap a picture with their smartphone’s GPS location turned on. (For an iPhone, this setting is in Settings/Privacy. Other phones or cameras will have similar settings.) This will provide GPS coordinates of the photo to document the exact location.

Previous pygmy rattlesnake sightings, along with photographs, can also be reported with specific location data and the date of the sighting. Persons are reminded not to harass or attempt to capture the snakes. The TWRA does not want anyone to endanger themselves.

Pygmy rattlesnake sightings and information may be reported to one of the following biologists: Shawn Snyder, or (717) 683-4226; or Dr. Bill Sutton, or (615) 963-7787.

Funding for the project is being provided by the TWRA through state and tribal wildlife grants.