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Massasaugas can be recognized by the
individual pattern that is visible even
on a shed skin. Toronto Zoo identifies
their snakes by taping the head area of
the shed skin to an identification card.







Snake skin is not wet or slimy but rather dry, and in the case of the massasauga, quite coarse. The shed skin will show the texture of the snakeís scales.

If you look closely at a snakeís shed skin, you may see the large, clear scale (spectacle) that once covered the eye. Since snakes canít close their eyes, spectacles offer the snake protection while acting as its eyelids. The milky liquid produced prior to shedding clouds the eyes and impairs the snakeís vision. During this period, many snakes seek seclusion, since they are vulnerable to predation or injury until molting is complete and eyesight returns to normal.

The eastern massasauga rattlesnake belongs to the pit viper (Viperidae) family. The name refers to the small heat-sensitive facial pit (small opening) on either side of the face, between the eye and nostril.

The pits are used to find warm-blooded prey through a large and highly sensitive network of nerve endings. The brain interprets the information gathered by the two pits to create an image of the prey animal.

Within 60 cm, a rattlesnake can find the exact location of a warm-blooded prey species, even in complete darkness.

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