Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake

Eastern diamond-backed rattlesnake, Eastern diamondback, Diamond rattlesnake, Diamond-back rattlesnake, Common rattlesnake, Diamond-back

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Order
Suborder
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Crotalus adamanteus
Population size
Unknown
Life Span
15-20 yrs
WEIGHT
0.8-5 kg
LENGTH
1-1.7 m

The Eastern diamondback rattlesnake is a venomous pit viper native to the southeastern United States. It is the heaviest venomous snake in the Americas and the largest rattlesnake. These rattlesnakes have brownish, brownish-yellow, brownish-gray or olive ground color, overlaid with a series of 24-35 dark brown to black diamonds with slightly lighter centers. Each of these diamond-shaped blotches is outlined with a row of cream or yellowish scales. Posteriorly, the diamond shapes become more like crossbands and are followed by 5-10 bands around the tail. The belly is a yellowish or cream-colored, with diffused, dark mottling along the sides. The head has a dark postocular stripe that extends from behind the eye backward and downwards to the lip.

Distribution

Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes are found in the southeastern United States from southeastern North Carolina, south along the coastal plain through peninsular Florida to the Florida Keys, and west along the Gulf Coast through southern Alabama and Mississippi to southeastern Louisiana. They inhabit upland dry pine forest, pine and palmetto flatwoods, sandhills and coastal maritime hammocks, longleaf pine/turkey oak habitats, grass-sedge marshes, and swamp forest, cypress swamps, mesic hammocks, sandy mixed woodlands, xeric hammocks, and salt marshes, as well as wet prairies during dry periods.

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes are solitary and frequently shelter by tunneling in gopher and tortoise burrows, emerging in the early morning or afternoon to bask. These rattlesnakes are terrestrial and not adept at climbing. However, they may on occasion been seen in bushes and trees, apparently in search of prey. Even large specimens have been spotted as high as 10 m (33 ft) above the ground. Eastern diamondbacks are also excellent swimmers and have often been spotted crossing stretches of water, sometimes miles from land. During cold winter months in some areas of their range, Eastern diamondbacks hibernate usually in mammal burrows, hollow logs, or among tree roots. When threatened, these snakes will raise the anterior half of the body off the ground in an S-shaped coil and can strike as far as two-thirds of their body length. Many will stand their ground and may strike repeatedly, but if given the opportunity, they will usually retreat while facing the intruder and moving backwards towards shelter, after which they disappear.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes are carnivores. They feed on small mammals, especially rabbits and rice rats, birds and large insects.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
summer, fall
PREGNANCY DURATION
6-7 months
BABY CARRYING
7-21 young
INDEPENDENT AGE
10-20 days
FEMALE NAME
female
MALE NAME
male
BABY NAME
snakelet

Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes are polygynandrous (promiscuous) which means that both males and females mate with multiple partners. They breed in the late summer and fall. Females give birth to between 7 and 21 young, usually between July and early October. The gestation period lasts around 6-7 months. Neonates are 12-14 in (30-36 cm) in length and are similar in appearance to the adults, except for having only a small button instead of a rattle on the tip of their tails. The female usually stays with her young and protects them until their first shed cycle which occurs 10-20 days after birth. After that snakeletes will disperse on their own to hunt and find cover. Young females become reproductively mature at 2 and 4 years of age while males attain maturity when they are 2.5 and 3.5 years old.

Population

Population threats

The main threat to Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes is habitat loss through development of plantations, agriculture, and expansion of urban and suburban centers. Other serious threats to this species include collecting for the skin trade and for competition in rattlesnake roundups, held annually in Alabama and Georgia.

Population number

According to IUCN, the Eastern diamondback rattlesnake is locally common and widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List but its numbers today are decreasing.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Other common names for this species include diamond(-patch) rattler, eastern diamond-back (rattlesnake), eastern diamond rattlesnake, Florida diamond-back (rattlesnake), Florida rattlesnake, lozenge-spotted rattlesnake, rattler, rattlesnake, southeastern diamond-backed rattlesnake, southeastern diamond-backed rattler, southern woodland rattler, water rattle, water rattlesnake, and diamondback rattlesnake.
  • Rattlesnakes usually start to rattle at a distance of 20-30 ft (6-9 m). Their rattle is well developed and can be heard from relatively far away.

References

1. Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake on Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_diamondback_rattlesnake
2. Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/64308/12762249

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