Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake

Reptiles

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

COMMON NAME: Eastern diamondback rattlesnake, diamondback rattlesnake
KINGDOM: Animalia
PHYLUM: Chordata
CLASS: Reptilia
ORDER: Squamata
FAMILY: Viperidae
GENUS SPECIES: Crotalus (rattle) adamanteus (hard as steel, refers to diamonds)

FAST FACTS

DESCRIPTION: Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes are heavy-bodied snakes. They are blackish brown, olive, or dusty gray; patterned with dark brown to black diamond-shaped blotches edged with narrow bands of white along the dorsal (back) surface. The sides of their heads are patterned with two white oblique stripes and their tails may be ringed with white and black bands.
SIZE: Adults average 1.2 m (4 ft.), reaching lengths up to 2.4 m (8 ft.); newborn snakes measure 30-35 cm (12-14 in)
WEIGHT: Average weight is 2.3 kg (5 lb.); maximum weight is 4.5 kg (10 lb.)
DIET: Rattlesnakes are carnivorous, feeding on birds and small mammals such as rabbits and rice rats.
INCUBATION: 4-6 months; born late summer to early fall
SEXUAL MATURITY: 3-6 years
LIFE SPAN: 10-20 years, depending on size of the animal
RANGE: Eastern diamondbacks are found in the southeastern United States, from Florida (Keys and peninsula) north to coastal areas of North Carolina, West Mississippi, and Louisiana.
HABITAT: Eastern diamondbacks are found in the southeastern United States, from Florida (Keys and peninsula) north to coastal areas of North Carolina, West Mississippi, and Louisiana.
POPULATION: GLOBAL No data
STATUS: IUCN Not listed
CITES Not listed
USFWS Not listed

FUN FACTS

1. They are classified as pit vipers because of facial pits found below and between the eye and nostril on both sides of the head. The pit is highly sensitive to infrared radiation (heat) and serves as a direction finder in locating warm-blooded prey or predators.
2. Rattlesnakes inject venom into their prey by biting them with curved fangs.
3. The rattlesnake uses its rattle to warn other animals of its presence. The rattle is a series of hard segments made of keratin. A new segment is added each time a snake sheds. When shaken, the segments vibrate against each other, producing a familiar buzz.
4. The age of a rattlesnake is not evident by the size or number of segments in its rattle. The rattle is often broken off after a couple of years. An adult rattlesnake that has the original button at the tip of its tail is rare.
5. When threatened, Eastern diamondbacks retreat from the threat, maintaining a striking coil and facing the intruder. Maneuvering their body backward to shelter, they quickly disappear.

ECOLOGY AND CONSERVATION

In their role as predators, rattlesnakes keep small animal populations - especially rodents - in check.

Although Eastern diamondbacks are rapidly disappearing, they are afforded no formal protection.

Although Eastern diamondbacks are rapidly disappearing, they are afforded no formal protection.

These snakes are also destroyed by annual "rattlesnake round-ups" that occur in several states in the U.S. Since 1958, the World's Largest Rattlesnake Round-Up has been held in Sweetwater, Texas. As of 1996, 231,636 pounds of Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes have been collected. Proceeds from this event benefit several prominent charity organizations.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Ashton, Ray Jr. and Patricia Sawyer Ashton. Reptiles and Amphibians of Florida: Part One, The Snakes. Miami. Windward Pub., 1988.

Mehrtens, John M. Living Snakes of the World. New York. Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. 1987.

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