Species Identification - Reptiles

Diamondback Rattlesnake - Crotalus adamanteus

Family: Viperidae

 

The largest venomous snake in North America, the Diamondback Rattlesnake is not very aggressive, and is averse to human contact. They only attack in self-defense, so be sure not to taunt or try to capture or kill one. Their venom is very poisonous, but mortality rate is only 10-20% due to available antivenoms. They may or may not use their rattler before striking, and their strike distance is up to 1/3 of their body length. They can reach up to 7’ in length (averaging 3.5-5.5’). They have stocky bodies, making them one of the heaviest American snakes. They are technically pit vipers and they eat rats, mice, squirrels, and birds. They may use gopher burrows for shelter during summer and winter, coming out to bask in the sun. Though excellent swimmers, they do not climb trees well. They lay roughly 12 eggs, and the young stay with the mother only a few hours before setting off on their own to hunt, which leads to high mortality rates among the young. If they reach maturity, Diamondbacks can live to 20 years.

Range: The Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake lives in coastal scrub habitats from North Carolina to Florida and Louisiana, making Hunting Island ideal for them. Though widespread, their numbers were down in 2007, and they are being reviewed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service for addition to the Endangered Species List. Few are seen in Louisiana any longer.

Photos by Carl Berube

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