I had no idea that rattlesnakes were actually indigenous to Minnesota & Wisconsin. I thought you had to go much further south to encounter any type of rattlesnakes, but it turns out both of the states have a couple of species that you can find in the wild.

Meet the rattlesnakes found in Minnesota & Wisconsin.

The two species of rattlesnakes in Minnesota and Wisconsin are the Eastern Massasauga and the Timber Rattlesnake. Both species are extremely rare, but they are poisonous. The Wisconsin DNR provides tips on how to treat rattlesnake bites and how to seek care.

The Eastern Massasauga is one of the rattlesnakes. It's a state endangered species and it's illegal to collect, possess or kill the species. It now only exists in 9 sites of its historical range in central and southern Wisconsin. Here's some info on it from neighboring Michigan DNR.

The other species is the Timber Rattlesnake which is found in southern and western Wisconsin, and in southeseatern Minnesota.

Wisconsin DNR
Wisconsin DNR
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The Timber rattlesnake is also a proctected wild animal. It's illegal to kill or possess these snakes. The only exception is if there is an immediate threat to humans or a domestic animal.

Why are these snakes protected?

Both of these snakes have faced issues with habitation loss, and human persecution. As the Wisconsin DNR points out, the fear of snakes is a learned behavior. People have been killing rattlesnakes for centuries, and it has caused great harm to their population. You are asked to report to wildlife officials any sightings of the snakes so that they can better track and protect the snakes.

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It's also worth noting that snakes are benefitial to humans as they keep rodent populations in check.  They are extremely rare, and wildlife officials stress that if you leave them be, they will not hurt you.

Most snakes you think are rattlesnakes are actually mimic rattlesnakes.

There are a lot of snakes that mimic what these rattlesnakes do. They may also have a small rattle or tip to their tail that shakes. But a lot of these are actually non-venomous snakes. It can be difficult to tell the difference. You can learn more about identifying snakes through the Wisconsin DNR & Minnesota DNR.

How to protect yourself against getting bit:

  • Know which areas that are a habitat for rattlesnakes
  • Stay on the trail path if hiking
  • Don't harass the snake: leave it space
  • Reach into crevices you can't see into

Here's what you do if you get a rattlesnake bite:

  • Move away from the snake
  • Remain Calm
  • Remove any rings, watches, etc from the bite area
  • Wash the bite with soap and water
  • immobilize the bitten area and keep it lower than your heart
  • seek immediate medical attention

Here's what you should NOT do when you get a rattlesnake bite:

  • Don't cut the bite with anything
  • Do not apply ice
  • Do not attempt to suck the venom out with your mouth
  • Do not use electric shock treatment
  • Don't administer alcohol or drugs to the victim
  • Don't use any blood thinners including ibuprofen, aspirin, or any others

Make sure you call ahead to the hospital and let them know you are coming. Ask for instructions from their emergency department. There may be other steps you can take that a medical professional can help you with. You can also call poison control at 1-800-222-1222.

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