What would you feel, if you are out for an evening stroll, late in the night and you hear, the unmistakable and unique, rattling sound, somewhere close? Man, it would make me feel like death itself is crawling on my soul and taking a lump of my courage away with every step. You may or may not feel something like this. Rattlesnakes do have their reputation. However, the thing is that, intimidated by your advance in its direction, the snake chose to rattle and warn you, of its presence. 40 different types of rattlesnakes can be found in the United States and Mexico.
Almost all rattlesnakes, that are known to man, except, one that is found in Mexico, can be identified with the rattle, that is present at the tip of their tails. Along with the rattles, the pits, on either sides of their mouth, can be noticed between their nostrils and the eyes. These pits help rattlesnake locate a prey, especially in the dark. These pits contain cells that can sense the body heat emitted by their preys. This organ is so efficient that the snake can judge the size of their prey, without actually seeing it.
One feature, that distinguishes these snakes from the rest of all, is the presence of the undivided scales in the area between the vent and the tail. A dead rattlesnake, if found without its tail and rattles, can be identified by examining its eyes. They resembles the cat's eyes. Their pupils are vertically elliptical, like that of cat's. These snakes are differentiated on the basis of the color, which can be a shade of brown, tan, yellow or gray. Depending on their habitat, the color of their skin can also be black, chalky white, dull red, and olive-green. The patterns on the skin of these snakes are also used to segregate them. These patterns, generally found on the backs and sides, can be as different as diamonds, chevron or blotched.
Rattlesnake is an indigenous snake to the American continent. Areas included in North and South America form the rattlesnake habitat. In California, it is found up to the height of 11,000 feet or approximately, 3,000 meters. Whereas in Mexico, it is known to inhabit areas that are 14,000 feet or approximately, 4,000 meters above the sea level. Just as any other snake, they are cold-blooded animals and the cold climate that is typically associated with higher elevations, especially in the winter, drives them into hibernation. They get scarce as the height increases. Normally, they inhabit areas of the Great Plains and the land mass of the United States.
The different species of rattlesnakes have adapted to different conditions. For this reasons, they are observed in varying terrains, such as, densely wooded lands, scorching deserts, lands that are at sea level and those, high in the mountains. They do prefer the areas that offer them plenty of covers and protection from the heat of sunlight. You can also find rattlesnakes in rough terrains and in areas that are populated by rodents.
Rattlesnakes, usually, hunt and consume rodents. However, adult snakes, large in size, do go for squirrels and prairie dogs. Animals like wood rats, cottontail and jackrabbits small in size, are also, hunted by these snakes. Animals such as weasels and skunks can also fall prey to rattlesnake, if they get a chance to sink their teeth in these animals. These snakes make do with what they find on the ground, while they are searching for food. Amphibians, lizards and birds, that nest on the ground and their eggs, forms a part of the rattlesnake diet. They kill more animals than they consume.
Quick Rattlesnake Facts
Rattlesnakes are placed in the phylumChordata and class Reptilia. Since, they evolved from lizards, they are place in orderSquamata and suborderSerpentes. They belongs to the family Viperidae and genusCrotalus. These are deadly snakes, that account for many lives in the United States every year.
- During a year, a rattlesnake eats food that is, approximately, 40% of its body weight.
- For, approximately, 90% of their life, these snakes are idle.
- A rattlesnake was found to have swallowed a prey that was 123% of its own body weight.
- They have erectile fangs. These fangs are hollow and open at the tips. After the snake strikes, venom flows into the body of the prey.
- Females are ovoviviparous i.e., instead of laying eggs like the other snakes do, they give birth to baby rattlers.
- A rattlesnake, kept in the Sun on a hot day, may die of stroke, in 15 to 20 minutes.
- The temperature range most favorable for these snakes is around 77-89 degree Fahrenheit or 25-32 degree Celsius.
- They are most active in Spring, which comes just after their winter hibernation.
- During winter hibernation, hundreds of rattlesnakes may choose a prairie dog hole to take a winter break.
- Vibrations in the ground travels through their muscles and jaw bones. These are then picked up by the inside ear parts. However, like other snakes, they are deaf.
- The Eastern Diamondback, is the largest rattlesnake, which can grow up to 6-8 feet.
- Pygmy rattlesnakes are the smallest in North America. Their length is usually between 15-25 inches.
- The diamondback rattlesnake is found in the southwestern deserts of North America and in the states such as North Carolina, Louisiana and Florida of the United States.
- Timber rattlesnake is found in the eastern part of the United States.
Because of the threat and the venomous nature of the rattlesnakes, it is legal to hunt and kill them. Destruction of their habitat, because of the use of land for agricultural purposes, is posing a problem for these reptiles.