A Hillbilly Guide to Snakes: The Western Diamondback Rattlesnake
Crotalus Atrox... The Texas Diamondback
The western diamondback rattlesnake is large well known venomous snake living in the United States. The western diamondback rattlesnake is second only to the eastern diamondback rattlesnake for causing fatalities to humans in the United States.
The western diamondback comes in variety of brown shades with a white diamond shapes going down it's back. The diamond shapes are filled in with a darker brown color. They have two lines on each side of their face that go up to their eyes. Their heads are triangular shape because of the large venom glands. I often describe this as a puffy cheek look. Their eyes are slit like cat eyes. They have an extra set of nostrils that are actually pits, which puts the snake in to the pit viper family.
These are big snakes. When you see the giant rattlesnakes in the movies it's a good chance that you are looking at either the western or eastern diamondback. The average size of an adult western diamondback is between 3 and 5 ft.. It is uncommon but not impossible to find them over 6 ft. The record western diamondback was just under 7ft.
The western diamondback rattlesnake ranges from Arkansas to California and all the way south in to Mexico.
Unlike many snakes that have picky habitats they prefer, the western diamondback is more similar to a kingsnake or rat snake in that it really isn't that picky. From forests, mountains, grasslands, and desert areas the western diamondback can thrive as long as it can find food.
Because of their impressive sizes as adults, western diamondback rattlesnakes feeding habits change as they grow up. Younger snakes will eat rodents, lizards, and other small prey they come across. Adult western diamondbacks are so big however that they will eat larger mammals such as gophers, rabbits, and squirrels. They have a very potent venom, that causes massive internal bleeding and multiple system failures.
Interactions With Humans
Do not interact with this snake! I cannot stress enough how bad of an idea it is to mess with a western diamondback rattlesnake. The venom these guys punch is so powerful they can kill themselves with a bite. I've heard rumors that this actually happened and is documented somewhere. The mortality rate for a human that is untreated after being bitten by a western diamondback is between ten and twenty percent. That's just deaths. That isn't accounting for the massive amounts of damage that is done to the human body. The western diamondback, like most snakes, will try to warn a human away with it's rattles. If the person continues to harass the snake they will bite to defend themselves, and they are known for being a fairly aggressive snake.
What does this mean to you? It means if you see one stay away. Don't try to kill or handle it. Leave it alone. Most people that get bit by snakes in the United States are bit while attempting to handle or kill poisonous snakes. An untrained professional trying to handle or kill a rattlesnake of this magnitude is just plain stupid. If you choose to ignore my advice well... Don't say I didn't warn you.
More by this Author
An article about bull snakes.
An article about the western rat snake, AKA the black rat snake.
An article about the Southern Copperhead.