Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

The Western Diamondback Rattlesnake, Crotalus atrox, is a species of venomous rattlesnake found in the United States and Mexico. It is found in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. It prefers flatlands and prairies to the rocky hills and low mountains.

This snake is generally colored dark or light brown. Its pattern is a unique row of large, dark diamond shapes edged in yellow trim, running down the length of its body. The diamonds fade to dark rings around the tail, where the distinctive rattle begins. A dark stripe edged in yellow runs back from the mouth to the eyes on each side of the head. Sexes are similar, except the males are generally larger than the female. They can grow to an average length of 4.5 feet, although Western Diamondbacks can reach a maximum of 6.5 feet.

The diet of the diamondback consists of small mammals and birds, and sometimes other reptiles, amphibians, fish, invertebrates, rabbits, mice, rats, gophers and squirrels. It eats every two to three weeks and swallows its food whole. The food is digested as it passes through the body. Its annual water intake is about the same as its body weight. In dry arid areas it will absorb water from its prey. Like other desert snakes, the diamondback can go for up to two years without food. And although it may not eat for a long period of time, even as its bodyweight shrinks, it still grows skeletal muscle and bones, which it gets from energy-rich lipid stores in its body.

Western diamondbacks are one of the more aggressive species of rattlesnake in North America. When confronted or threatened they usually coil and shake their rattle to warn an aggressor that it has stumbled upon something dangerous. Although the venom of the diamondback isn’t particularly toxic, the size of the snake allows a larger capacity of venom to be released from its two prominent fangs. All pit vipers have the ability to control the flow of venom through their fangs, allowing the diamondback to release most of its venom in a single bite. Although it is common that they do not release any venom whatsoever, the venom capacity combined with the size and aggressiveness of the snake make it a dangerous and lethal predator.

The diamondback’s gestation period lasts six or seven months and broods of about a dozen young are born live. However, the young only stay with the mother for a few hours before they wander off on their own to hunt and find recluse, thus the mortality rate is fairly high. The Western
Diamondback is the most commonly encountered rattlesnake in Texas. It is also the longest rattlesnake in the state of Texas. The record length is over 7 feet long, whereas adults generally geo to no more than 3 to 4 feet long.