This small -- 14–22 in (38-56 cm) -- rattlesnake belongs to the genus Sistrurus and is commonly referred to as a pigmy rattler or ground rattler. Unlike the larger rattlesnakes of the genus Crotalus, this species has nine large scales on top of the head and a tiny rattle that can seldom be heard. There are three subspecies of pigmy rattlesnakes, of which two occur in Georgia (Sistrurus miliarius miliarius – the Carolina pigmy rattler and Sistrurus miliarius barbouri – the dusky pigmy rattler). Both subspecies have a row of mid-dorsal spots and a bar than runs from the eye to the base of the mouth, but the color of this bar can vary from black to brownish red. An orange or reddish brown dorsal stripe is also present on both subspecies. In young snakes, the tip of the tail is sulfur yellow and is used for caudal luring. The Carolina pigmy rattler can be gray, tan, or lavender. Some specimens from northern Georgia and eastern North Carolina are orange or red. The pattern of this subspecies is usually clean and well defined, with one or two rows of lateral spots. The venter is moderately patterned. The dusky pigmy ranges from bluish gray to nearly black. Numerous dark flecks often obscure the pattern of this subspecies. There are normally three rows of lateral spots, and the venter is heavily patterned.
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