A Hillbilly Guide to Snakes: The Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake

Eastern diamondback rattlesnake showing off his business end! By FinneJager (Own work) CC-BY-3.0
Eastern diamondback rattlesnake showing off his business end! By FinneJager (Own work) CC-BY-3.0 | Source
Eastern diamondback rattlesnake. By TimVickers, Public domain.
Eastern diamondback rattlesnake. By TimVickers, Public domain. | Source

Crotalus Adamanteus... The Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake


The eastern diamondback rattlesnake is the unchallenged largest venomous snake in the United States, and arguably the most dangerous as well. They are member of the pit viper family and their venom is very potent. They are responsible for more fatal snake bites then any other snake in the U.S..

Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake.  By Snakecollector [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake. By Snakecollector [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons | Source
Eastern diamondback rattlesnake. By Tad Arensmeier from St. Louis, MO, USA CC-BY-2.0
Eastern diamondback rattlesnake. By Tad Arensmeier from St. Louis, MO, USA CC-BY-2.0 | Source
Eastern diamondback rattlesnake. Photo by Elvissa. Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Eastern diamondback rattlesnake. Photo by Elvissa. Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) | Source
Eastern diamondback rattlesnake.  Public Domain.
Eastern diamondback rattlesnake. Public Domain. | Source

Appearance


Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes are typically brown with a tint of yellow, brown, or gray. They will have large black diamond shaped designs going all the way down their back. The color in the center of the diamond will likely bit a little lighter shade of the primary color. They will have a black patch near their eyes that runs down their jaw outlined with white giving their eyes a raccoon look.

Being a pit viper, the eastern diamondback rattlesnake will have what looks like an extra nostril on it's face. This pit is actually an organ for detecting heat. It is something that you won't find on any of the nonvenomous snakes in the U.S..

The eastern diamondback rattlesnake will also have a large triangle shaped head just like other vipers. This is caused by the large venom glands on it's head that gives it a puffy cheeks look. Nonvenomous snakes don't have the venom gland so their heads are more round shaped.

Eastern Diamondback rattlesnakes get very large. The typical length of an adult eastern diamondback rattlesnake is between 3 and 6 feet. It is rare for them to get above 7 feet, but such snakes have been documented. The record is 8 feet long!

They are both long and stout, in fact the eastern diamondback rattlesnake is documented in the Guinness Book of World Records as the heaviest venomous snake in the world. It is without question the largest member of the rattlesnake family.

Eastern diamondback rattlesnake.  Photo by Edward J. Wozniak, 2005. Public Domain.
Eastern diamondback rattlesnake. Photo by Edward J. Wozniak, 2005. Public Domain. | Source
Eastern diamondback rattlesnake range.   By derivative work: IvanTortuga (talk) BlankAmericas.png: FB (BlankAmericas.png) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Eastern diamondback rattlesnake range. By derivative work: IvanTortuga (talk) BlankAmericas.png: FB (BlankAmericas.png) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons | Source

Habitat


The eastern diamondback rattlesnake is found in the southeastern part of the United States in Flordia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi.

They are most commonly found in dry wooded and/or sandy areas. They prefer the dry areas, however they can be found near swamps as well and are known for being strong swimmers.

Eastern diamondback rattlesnake.  Public domain.
Eastern diamondback rattlesnake. Public domain. | Source
Eastern diamondback rattlesnake.  Public domain.
Eastern diamondback rattlesnake. Public domain. | Source

Food


The eastern diamondback rattlesnake gets big enough that it can choose from a wider array of food options than many North American snake species. While they have been known to eat rodents and other reptiles, adult eastern diamondback rattlesnake are more commonly known for eating larger mammals such as rabbits and squirrels.

Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes utilize a potent hemotoxin to kill it's prey. It will lie in ambush or cruise around until it spots something that looks tasty. It will strike and deliver it's deadly venom. Then the snake will back off and wait for it's prey to die.

Eastern diamondback rattlesnake. Public domain.
Eastern diamondback rattlesnake. Public domain. | Source

Interactions With Humans


The eastern diamondback rattlesnake is responsible for the most deaths by snake bite in the United States. There I've said it twice. It has a reputation for being aggressive and mean. That said, in reality it's pretty much harmless when left alone. Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes do not seek encounters with humans. They only produce so much venom at any one time, and would much rather use that venom to feed rather than to defend it's life against human attackers. Most venomous snake bites in the United States occur from people trying to kill the snakes. They will try to warn you with their rattles first that they don't want to be bothered. So if you don't want to feel the wrath of this powerful animals only defense mechanism then don't mess with it.

Eastern diamondback rattlesnake. By TimVickers (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Eastern diamondback rattlesnake. By TimVickers (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons | Source

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