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Massasauga Rattlesnake Conservation

Massasauga Rattlesnake Conservation


Massasauga Rattlesnake

Listing Status: Threatened (1998)

massasauga photo The massasauga rattlesnake, a relatively small and well-camouflaged rattlesnake, is very uncommon and rarely seen in Pennsylvania.  It has been listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act since 1998, because of habitat loss and persecution by humans.

Massasauga rattlesnakes are closely linked to wetlands and the areas around them, spending virtually all their time in wetlands and upland habitats near them hunting rodents and other small prey.  Many people fear or kill them simply because they are poisonous snakes, however, massasaugas are extremely secretive and rarely interact with humans at all.  In addition, they are surprisingly docile and the few recorded bites by massasaugas have never caused a fatality in Pennsylvania.  Massasaugas prefer to avoid humans whenever possible, and if given enough habitat and privacy, would rarely  conflict with humans.

 Massasauga rattlesnake range map (in orange)

Massasauga rattlesnake range mapGoals and Objectives for Massasauga Rattlesnakes

NRCS activities to benefit massasauga rattlesnakes focus on the protection of existing wetlands, restoration of drained or manipulated wetlands, and enhancing the wildlife habitat of nearby areas.

Through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), NRCS can provide financial assistance to assist private landowners with the sustainable management and improvement of their wetlands and wildlife habitat areas.  Through Wetland Restoration Easements (WRE), NRCS can purchase conservation easements on wetlands of importance to massasauga rattlesnakes.  Additional management and conservation practices are also available on those easement acres, as well.  A wide variety of NRCS programs offer other wildlife-friendly practices, like riparian forested buffers, riparian herbaceous cover, and conservation plantings, which can all provide excellent habitat for massasauga rattlesnakes and the species associated with them.     

Undisturbed wetlands are vital to massasauga rattlesnakes, as well as, the wildlife habitat around them.

Massasauga habitat







Conservation Practices that Benefit Massasauga Rattlesnakes

Wetland Restoration (657)

Wetland Enhancement (659)

Wetland Creation (658)

Brush Management (314)

Herbaceous Weed Management (315)

Wetland Wildlife Habitat Management (644)

Upland Wildlife Habitat Management (645)

Riparian Forest Buffer (391)

Early Successional Habitat Development (647)

Conservation Cover (327)

How to apply for Financial Assistance

See general information about funding through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE).

Applying for Pennsylvania Conservation Programs – Overview of the Application Process, what application documents will need to be filled out, eligibility documents, and the basic requirements.

NRCS Office Locations – Visit your local NRCS office to apply.

Program Contacts

Assistant State Conservationist for Programs
(717) 237 – 2100

Barry Isaacs
Staff Biologist
(717) 237 – 2213


Technical Contact

Jim Gillis
State Biologist
(717) 237 - 2219