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

Distribution: Forests, grasslands, deserts and rocky areas across the southern United States, northern Mexico and central Mexico.

Diet in the Wild: : Birds, lizards and small mammals such as rodents and rabbits.

Diet at Caldwell Zoo: Mice and rats

IUCN Red List Status: Least Concern, population stable. However, habitat destruction, poaching and extermination programs, i.e. rattlesnake round-ups are probably affecting population numbers.

Interesting Facts:

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, and dies soon after. The rattlesnake then 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, however, as snakes shed at various rates and may break off a segment or segments of the rattle. The rattle can be rattled an impressive 40 to 60 times per second!

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