Rattlesnakes shed their skin 2-4 times each year and gain a new segment on their rattle each time. When the segments get old and brittle they break off.
Bullsnakes and rattlesnakes are different enough, genetically, that they couldn’t possibly breed successfully. They are as different as humans are to chimps.
The longest rattlesnake, officially recorded, was an Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake that was 8 feet, one inch in length. Most rattlesnakes are 2-4 feet.
Rattlesnakes will do what they can to avoid contact with us. They are shy and bite only when we get too close and pose a threat to the snake.
Most snakes in the viper and boa groups are born alive. Others, including pythons, cobras, bullsnakes, kingsnakes and rat snakes are hatched from eggs.
All rattlesnakes are found in North, Central and South America. Perhaps we are lucky. Most of the more dangerous vipers and cobras live elsewhere.
Rattlesnake bites are rarely fatal. About 12 out of 8000 bites each year result in death, less than 1%. Many more people die from bee stings or lightning.
The Timber Rattlesnake was a serious consideration for our national symbol and appeared on many early flags. As you know, the bald eagle won out.
When the temperature starts to drop on the fall, snakes head for their dens where they will hibernate in groups that number into the hundreds.
One third of all rattlesnake bits to humans are considered dry bites when no venom was injected. The snake was simply protecting itself.
Don’t panic when you see a snake. You are not their food. Stand back about ten feet and observe it. As long as you don’t pose a threat, it won’t run from you.
Snakes detect odors by flicking their tongues. They can detect enemies, food or mates in this way and rely on their sense of smell more than sight, as we do. This sense is their most important.
Snakes may appear cool or warm to the touch depending on the surrounding temperature. They can be rough or smooth but never wet or slimy except after a swim.
Rattlesnakes and bullsnakes can be found living close to one another. Both prefer rodents or birds for food. They can often be found hibernating together too.
Many people think the sound of a rattle is a threat from an aggressive animal. It is actually the sound of fear from a shy animal afraid to be stepped on.
The rattlesnakes’ first choice of defense is to remain silent and let the threat pass by. It takes a serious threat or a touch to provoke the rattling.
Because of its unique method of locomotion, sidewinding, the sidewinder rattlesnake can reach top speeds of about 3 miles per hour, which is slower than we walk, but faster than other rattlesnakes.
The baby rattlesnake is born with venom that is quite similar to the adult venom. However, it is much smaller with less venom and a shorter strike. It always injects venom while the adult snake may not, but the average bite is far less dangerous.
Most rattlesnakes are extremely shy and will make every effort to avoid human contact. They will only bite to defend themselves or to catch food.
Some non-venomous snakes do make good pets. They are clean, quiet, shed no fur, don’t scratch furniture, usually feed once each week and don’t have to be let out.
Without predators like the rattlesnakes, the world would soon be overrun with crop-eating, disease-carrying rodents such as mice and rats.
Snakes don’t have external ear openings and are virtually deaf to airborne sounds. They can, however, feel vibrations through the ground.
On warm summer days, snakes are avoiding the heat by hiding in animal burrows or in the shade. Surface temperatures near 100 can be fatal to them.
Rattlesnakes are actually found in all but 4 states. Those without rattlesnakes are Hawaii, Alaska, Maine and Delaware.
Copyright © 1994 by The American International Rattlesnake Museum