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 Animal Fact Sheet:  Western Diamondback  Rattlesnake

Identifying Features

The Western diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox) is a heavy bodied snake with a triangular shaped head. There are two dark diagonal lines on each side of its face running from the eyes to its jaws. It has dark diamond-shaped patterns along is back. The tail has black and white bands just above the rattles.

Click to hear Western Diamondback sounds

 

Adaptations

Western diamondbacks are pit vipers. This means that they have a heat sensing pit (loreal pit) located behind each nostril that can detect differences in temperature, sometimes differences that are only a fraction of a degree apart. The heat given off by an animal is detected by the snake helping it to determine predator from prey.

Habitat

This snake is considered a generalist, which means that it isn't too picky about its habitat. It can be found living in deserts, grassy plains, forests, rocky hillsides and areas along the coast. It lives in elevations from below sea level up to 6500 feet (2000m).

Range

This species ranges throughout the southwestern United States (Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas)and northern half of Mexico.

Wild Status

Currently, western diamondback rattlesnakes are not threatened or endangered.

Diet

Mice, rats, rabbits, gophers, ground dwelling birds, lizards and other small animals make up the diet of this snake.

Predators

Diamondbacks have many predators and not always because the predator wants to eat them. Animals such as deer, antelope, cows and horses regard the diamondback as a threat and they may try to trample or stomp the snake. Eagles, hawks, roadrunners, kingsnakes, coyote, bobcats or fox are predators who look at these snakes as a source of food.

Home

Diamondbacks will often spend the hot daytime hours coiled in the shade of low-growing shrubs, piles of natural or artificial debris, or rocks. They will also utilize underground burrows of other animals. In the winter, they retreat into caves or similar places to hibernate.

Life Span

These snakes can live approximately 15-20 years in captivity.

Size

This snake ranges in size from 3 to 5 feet long with a few reaching 7 feet long.

Extra Fun-facts

  • The rattle of the rattlesnake is made up of a protein called keratin (the same protein that your hair and fingernails are made of). A new segment is added each time a rattlesnake sheds, but they can shed at different rates. Because of this, and the fact that segments can break off, you really can't tell a snakes age by counting the segments.
  • A rattlesnake can move its rattle back and forth 60 or more times per second.

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