Are you afraid of snakes? Or do you find them fascinating?
I was never scared of snakes since my childhood and have always taken a lot of interest in them. However, there is one snake that I still hesitate to pick up immediately! It is none other than the rattlesnake!!
The sound of its rattle can put a shiver down the spine of animals and humans alike! They are large and venomous. There are about 32 species of rattlesnakes, and they inhabit a wide variety of habitats. Let’s look at 10 rattlesnakes in North America!
10 North American Rattlesnakes
1. Timber and Canebrake Rattlesnake
Some people think they are two distinct species, while some think they belong to the same species. Both are medium to large in length and have a substantial body. They are not very fast and move lazily. They are entirely passive and don’t even rattle very often. Their skin pattern allows them to hide easily under leaves and grass. Their numbers are in decline mainly because of extensive destruction of their habitat and unnecessary killing.
2. Eastern Diamondback
It is the second-longest rattlesnake and also the most heavy-bodied. The average length is 5 feet, but many can grow to about 8 feet. It has a diamond pattern, which is very distinct and is also the reason for its name. They blend effortlessly into their habitat and, as an ambush predator, use their camouflage well. They share a unique relationship with gopher tortoises.
During hibernation, they use the tortoise burrows for shelter and birthing as well. They also use rotting wood stumps and use the network of root systems as tunnels. They usually feed on small mammals.
3. Western Diamondback
It is the longest rattlesnake found in the USA with a specimen about 8 feet in length. On average, they range between 3.5 to 4.5 feet in length. They also have a distinct diamond pattern like the eastern diamondback, but it is lighter. Colors range from red to brown, depending on the habitat.
There are 4 to 6 black and white bands on the tail, which makes it easy to identify. It is highly poisonous and attacks if under threat. They inhabit a variety of landscapes from flats to mountains. There has been a decline in their numbers mainly because of events like rattlesnake roundups.
4. Mojave Rattlesnake
Sometimes people mistake them for western diamondbacks because they have a similar diamond pattern. The color, bands on the tail, and facial stripes, however, differentiates them. Their venom is very potent, and affected people should get emergency treatment. Based on the type of poison, experts divide them into two groups. One type has neurotoxins, and the other has haemotoxins. Some Mojave rattlesnakes have a potent combination of both venoms, and they can be life-threatening.
5. Western Rattlesnakes
The Western Rattlesnakes are a group of five rattlesnakes. Many have similar markings and stripes, which can confuse. Once you know the habitats and ranges of these snakes, it is easier to identify them. You can find them everywhere, from sea level to a height of 9000 feet. It is also famous in the venomous pet trade because of the variety of color variations that are there. The Albino, Axanthic, and Patternless ones are much in demand.
6. Pygmy Rattlesnakes
As the name suggests, pygmy rattlesnakes are not very large. They range from the southeastern to the western US. They live in different types of habitats like pinewoods, marshes, wet prairies, and dry river bottoms. They mostly lie down among rocks, woodpiles, and even in open grasslands. They have a wide variety of colors. Some have orange and red while others are dark and pattern-less.
7. Eastern Massasauga
The US Fish and Wildlife Service has declared that this snake is under threat. It is a small snake that has a thick body. It usually lives in shallow wetlands from Illinois to New York to Ontario in Canada. It has very dark brown oval designs on the gray or red-brown background. The main reasons for the decline in its numbers are habitat destruction and climate change. Some fungal diseases also affect the numbers severely.
This is a small desert snake that thrives in sandy and hot areas of the southwest US. They have a unique way of moving sideways, which gives it the name sidewinder. They can move forward just like the other snakes but can also move sideways for long periods and that too at a fast pace. This sideways movement helps in movement on hot surfaces. At any given time, only two points on its body meet warm sand. They have distinct scales over the eyes which look like horns. Just like other rattlesnakes, sidewinders are also ambushing predators and generally feed on rodents and lizards.
9. Banded Rock Rattlesnakes
It is one of the smaller rattlesnakes and generally grows up to no longer 2 feet. It is present in mountain ranges along the Mexican border, mainly in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. These snakes are very secretive and hide well thanks to their small size and speed. They generally live at heights of 5000 to 8000 feet. They prefer rocky outcrops in pine and conifer forests.
10. Ridge-Nosed rattlesnakes
There are two types of ridge-nosed rattlesnakes; one in Arizona and the other New Mexico. Both are very similar except the patterns on their bodies. They both have a raised rostrum, which forms a ridge, and that is the reason for their names. Both live at high altitudes and like rocky habitats. Though they are venomous, the venom is not very toxic, and there have been only a few cases of poisoning.
These are 10 of the most common rattlesnakes in North America. Rattlesnakes scare people because they don’t fully understand their behavior and temperament. They have a bad reputation, but they are not all dangerous. As long as they are not under any threat, they are harmless. Like any other animal, they have their special features, and we have to respect them.