Michigan’s Only Venomous Snake Strikes Livingston County Woman

Eastern Massasauga is Michigan's only venomous snake.

The massasauga rattlesnake is Michigan’s only venomous snake. While bites are rare, immediate medical attention is needed if bitten. (Provided photo: LivingstonDaily.com.)

Eastern massasauga rattlesnake bites, while rare, require immediate medical attention.

Eastern Massasauga Found in Wetland and Wooded Areas, Sightings Infrequent

Michigan’s diverse wildlife provides enjoyment and recreation throughout all four seasons of the year. While deer and fish are some of the most common and recognizable animals, there’s one shy and rarely-sited reptile that has the only poisonous bite out of all Michigan animals. It’s the eastern massasauga rattlesnake. And a Livingston County woman is recovering after an unexpected bite.

According to Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the massasauga is typically found in wetlands and wooded areas only in the lower peninsula. With many inland lakes, wooded areas, and metro and state parks throughout Southeast Michigan, there’s a good chance massasaugas are living where greater metro Detroit residents work and play.

Recognizing Eastern Massasauga’s Distinct Body Markings

An adult massasauga is about two to three feet in length and has a distinctive segmented rattler at the end of its body. In addition, there are three distinctive markings at the snake’s head and neck. Its dark head markings extend into the first body marking. The next body markings resemble a video game controller and a bow tie, according to the DNR.

Massasauga Strikes Rarely Fatal

Massasaugas are not aggressive and only bite when they feel threatened. If one is seen, give it space and walk away. According a Livingston Daily news report, the Livingston County woman is believed to have accidentally stepped on the snake, which then bit her leg.

When compared to other rattlesnakes found in the United States, the massasauga’s bite is the least toxic yet still requires immediate medical attention with anti-venom serum. The venom causes severe pain and swelling.

Bites from a massasauga are rare. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, there are only one to two bites annually. Michigan DNR reports that there have been no deaths from a massasauga bite since the 1940s.

Co-Existing with Massasaugas

It’s important to know that the eastern massasauga rattlesnake is a vital part of Michigan’s ecosystem. Rodents are Its favorite meal and it is also a food source for birds of prey like eagles and hawks. Its population is declining because of habitat loss and is listed as a threatened species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It is illegal to kill, move, and sell the massasauga.

Michigan DNR encourages reporting of massasauga observations.