Newsroom Midwest Region

February 25, 2020

Georgia Parham 812-334-4261 x 203, 

Service seeks public comment on draft recovery plan for eastern massasauga rattlesnake

Eastern massasauga rattlesnake
Eastern massasauga rattlesnake. Photo by Abbey Kucera/USFWS.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking public comment on a draft recovery plan for the eastern massasauga rattlesnake, a small and timid species that was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2016. The goal of the plan is to ensure the long-term viability of the snake to the point at which it no longer warrants ESA protection.

The eastern massasauga is found in parts of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, as well as in Ontario, Canada. Historically it also occurred in Minnesota and Missouri, but it is now considered extirpated in those states. The eastern massasauga was listed as threatened due to population declines linked to habitat loss, collection and intentional and unintentional killing. The draft recovery plan for the species includes actions such as habitat protection, population management and research.

The eastern massasauga has a thick body, heart-shaped head and vertical pupils. The average length of an adult is about two feet. The snake’s tail has several dark brown rings and is tipped by gray-yellow rattles. ¬†Although the snake is venomous, fear of the species is largely unwarranted. While encounters between massasaugas and humans are rare, and fatalities even rarer, human safety always comes first. Even though the massasauga is listed as threatened, the Endangered Species Act allows the public to protect themselves, or others, if needed.

Massasaugas live in wet prairies, marshes and low-lying areas along rivers and lakes. They use a mix of upland and wetland habitat, which provides habitat for other wildlife, recharges groundwater resources and improves water quality.

The draft recovery plan for the eastern massasauga (PDF) is available for review; comments will be accepted from February 26 through March 27, 2020. Written comments may be mailed to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Chicago Ecological Services Field Office, Attention: Louise Clemency; 230 South Dearborn, Suite 2398, Chicago, IL 60604; Attention: Louise Clemency. Please include “Eastern Massasauga DRP” in the subject line. Comments may also be submitted by email to Please include “Eastern Massasauga DRP” in the subject line of any comments submitted.

Learn more about the eastern massasauga rattlesnake.