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Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake

 

Image: Wikipedia Creative Commons

Description: The (often called Diamondback) is the largest pit viper in the United States. At an average length of about 5 feet, it is the largest poisonous snake found in the United States. This beautiful snake is usually brown, gold, or yellowish in coloration with between 24-35 dark diamond-shaped markings on the skin. Each diamond is outlined in yellow or cream-colored scales. The tail is decorated with 5-10 pronounced crossbands. The belly is yellowish in coloration and the head has a distinct stripe that extends from the eye diagonally away from the mouth. When threatened, the Diamondback will rattle its tail. The rattle is loud and can be heard from a distance. If the rattle does not chase away the threat, the snake will coil itself in an “S” position before striking at the threat with its fangs. This snake delivers a powerful, painful bite with unusually long fangs. Diamondback venom is often fatal without immediate medical treatment, though these snakes will avoid humans if possible.

Diet: The Diamondback preys upon mice, rats, chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits, birds, and eggs. After the snake strikes at its prey, it releases it and then uses its sense of smell to follow the dying victim.

Habitat/Range: The Diamondback prefers dry pine forests, sandy mixed woodlands, brushlands, and wet prairies. It will often hide in gopher burrows during the heat of the summer or in winter. The Diamondback ranges throughout much of the American southeast from southern North Carolina south to the Florida Keys west to Louisiana. Diamondbacks are excellent swimmers and are occasionally encountered crossing large bodies of waters.

Breeding: Female Diamondbacks give birth to between 7-12 young after a gestation period of six or seven months. Young Diamondbacks only stay with their mother for a couple of hours before venturing out on their own.

Status: The Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake is uncommon and populations are thought to be declining because of habitat destruction, and sadly, indiscriminate killing from humans who are scared of these snakes.