Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

The diamondback is a more aggressive rattlesnake. It will stand its ground, rattle then strike. But even with the warning system, rattlesnake bites are the leading snake bite injuries in North America. Even though this snake is venomous, it does have predators. One interesting predator is the kingsnake which is immune to the rattler’s venom.

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

Crotalus atrox

Habitat: Diamondback rattlesnakes inhabit areas from central Arkansas to central California and south into Mexico. These snakes are found in a wide variety of habitats, i.e. grassy plains, desert and desert scrub, pine-oak forest and rocky hillsides.

Diet in the wild: Mice, rats and other small animals

Diet at Caldwell Zoo: Mice and rats

Size: The diamondback rattlesnake is 4-5 feet long (longest reliable diamondback length is 7 feet). This snake will weigh 4-6 pounds.

Family: The diamondback rattlesnake is solitary except during mating season and when hibernating. After a gestation of 6-7 months, the female gives birth to an average of a dozen young. These little ones will stay with mom for a few hours then are off on their own. At birth the hatchlings are capable of killing prey.

Status: Least Concern by IUCN. Habitat destruction, poaching and extermination programs, i.e. rattlesnake round-ups are probably affecting population numbers.

Did you know? The rattlesnake has fangs with venom ducts that connect with large venom glands. Primarily the venom is an adaptation for capturing and subduing prey. The diamondback bites its prey and then releases it quickly. The prey, once envenomed, staggers off as the venom starts to affect it. Death comes swiftly, but many times the prey has distanced itself from the rattlesnake. Now the rattlesnake uses its Jacobson’s organ via tongue flicking to scent track the fallen prey. Generally a rattlesnake will lie in wait for its next meal. After its prey is subdued, it eats the prey head-first.

The rattles on rattlesnakes are made of keratin just like your fingernails. A new segment is added each time the snake sheds. Age of a rattle snake cannot be calculated by counting rattles as snakes shed at various rates and may break off a segment or segments of the rattle. Did you know that a rattlesnake can rattle 60 times per second?

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