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Rarely-seen breed of dwarf rattlesnake born at the NC Zoo weighs less than a nickel

Check out North Carolina’s official baby rattlesnakes, born just two weeks ago. They rank as a species of “special concern” in North Carolina.
Check out North Carolina’s official baby rattlesnakes, born just two weeks ago. They rank as a species of “special concern” in North Carolina. North Carolina Zoo photo

A Carolina Pygmy Rattlesnake couple at the North Carolina Zoo became the proud parents of three extremely small but venomous offspring this month.

The birth announcement was made Wednesday on the zoo’s Facebook page and officials noted the “adorable wee babies” weigh between 3.4 and 4.8 grams.

“Less than a nickel,” zoo officials said.

The triplets were born April 18 to two pit vipers residing in the the zoo’s Streamside habitat, which also includes a banded rock rattler, black tailed rattler, specked rattler, timber rattler and sidewinder.

The babies are considered too small to go on exhibit at this time, officials said on Facebook. Their “baby food” consists of baby mice, zoo officials told the Charlotte Observer.

“For now, the babies will live here,” said zoo spokeswoman Debbie Foster Fuchs. “No immediate plans to send the snakes to other zoos.”

Pygmy rattlers are native to the southeastern coastal plain and Sandhills of North Carolina, but are considered rare, according to HerpsofNC.org.

“Pigmy rattlesnakes are aptly named because they are the smallest species of rattlesnake in the United States,” says the site. “The rattle is so small, that its ‘buzz’ sounds like a small insect, oftentimes barely heard.”

Full grown pygmy rattlesnakes grow between 14 and 22 inches long, according to the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory from the University of Georgia.

“Pigmy rattlesnakes spend most of their time well-hidden among leaf litter and can be very hard to spot,” says the laboratory’s web site. “These snakes are most often encountered crossing roads on summer evenings.”

The venom of pygmy rattlers “is strongly hemorrhagic and tissue damaging,” reports Snake-Facts.Weebly.com. “The hemotoxic venom causes the breakdown of blood cells and causes bruising and internal bleeding.”

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