Hopi Rattlesnake

The Hopi Rattlesnake, Crotalus viridis nuntius, is a species of venomous rattlesnake native mainly to the desert plateau of the northeastern area of Arizona, but also ranges into northwestern New Mexico. Named for the Native American Hopi tribe, which inhabits this region, the Hopi rattlesnake is a subspecies of the Western Rattlesnake. Their range overlaps and some interbreeding is believed to occur.

The Hopi rattlesnake is typically a small snake, not growing much beyond 2 feet in length. They are typically pink, to gray, to orange-brown in color, reflecting the color of their habitat as camouflage. There is darker brown blotching down its back. Like other rattlesnakes, they have eyes with vertical pupils, and the tail has a rattle on it. During shredding of its skin, the fragile rattle can break off and it is impossible to tell the age of the snake from the length or number of segments on the tail.

Hopi rattlesnakes are not typically aggressive and will coil up and rattle its tail if disturbed. Usually it will only strike if harassed or handled. Their venom is primarily hemotoxic, causing swelling and necrosis, while other populations of this rattler are known to have the potent neurotoxic effect as well, resulting in muscle paralysis and possibly respiratory failure. These snakes also are capable of delivering a “dry bite” in which no venom is injected at all.

These rattlesnakes breed in the spring and give birth to small clutches of 4 to 6 young in the early fall. The young are almost identical in color to the adults, and are approximately 7.5 inches in length. They reach maturity at two to three years of age. Generally nocturnal and secretive, they spend their days in rock crevices or other burrows to avoid the desert heat. They feed on rodents, birds, lizards, and sometimes frogs.