Western diamondback rattlesnakes (Crotalus atrox) are sizable reptiles that make their homes in northern regions of Mexico and southern regions of the United States, from Arkansas to California. These pit vipers are highly poisonous. Because of that, always staying away from them is the smart and cautious thing to do.
Western diamondback rattlesnakes often grow to upwards of approximately 5 feet long, with maximum weights of 15 pounds or so. The overall coloration of their bodies is pink, beige or grayish-yellow, with clear diamond patterns. The sizable diamonds are brownish and located on their backs. Other memorable physical traits of western diamondback rattlesnakes are thin necks, wide heads and inconspicuous tails that feature barring in white and black, along with their trademark rattle. They possess sturdy and somewhat squat builds.
As pit vipers, western diamondback rattlesnakes are equipped with loreal pits in the backs of their nostrils and eyes. These pits have the ability to pick up subtleties in temperatures, even when barely noticeable. They conveniently help these rattlesnakes figure out whether or not an animal is a predator by detecting differences in body temperatures.
When western diamondback rattlesnakes look for food, they tend to focus on rodents, like mice, rats, chipmunks and gophers. Although rodents are their dietary preference, they also regularly feed on rabbits, lizards, birds, fish, amphibians and tiny mammals. They can kill their prey almost instantly, simply by biting them and injecting their aggressive venom. Since western diamond rattlesnakes are such enthusiastic consumers of rodents, they are helpful in keeping numbers of pests lower.
These mostly nocturnal rattlesnakes usually are drawn to landscapes that are scrubby and rugged. They appreciate settings that are chock full of places for retreat, like fissures within stones. Western diamondback rattlesnakes are found commonly around hills, and in deserts, grasslands and woodsy areas. They also frequently make appearances amid heaps of garbage, which are typical hangouts for their favorite meals -- mice and rats.
Western diamondback rattlesnakes are not at risk for endangerment in the near future, with their steady and substantial populations of at least 100,000 individuals. Although their numbers are good, they do have some risks, including persecution by people, moving cars and minimization of their living environments. None of these risk factors yet are nearly strong enough to affect their ongoing strength as a species, however.
Western diamondback rattlesnakes reproduce in the spring and summer months each year. Since they're ovoviviparous, the eggs hatch while inside of the mothers' bodies, and, therefore, they bear live young. Their clutches can have as many as 12 youngsters.
The venom of western diamondback rattlesnakes is no laughing matter. These snakes often attack when they feel that humans are bothering them, which generally means touching them. Their extremely dangerous venom can lead to potential consequences of the heart and blood vessels. Bites from these snakes always require urgent medical assistance, and sometimes can lead be life-threatening, so take note.
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Crotalus atrox
- IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Crotalus Atrox
- Reptiles of Arizona: Western Diamondbacked Rattlesnake
- Desert Museum: Western Diamondback Rattlesnake
- New Mexico Herpetological Society: Crotalus Atrox
- UTA Amphibian and Reptile Diversity Research Center: Western Diamondback Rattlesnake
- ASDM Sonoran Desert Digital Library: Crotalus Atrox
- Washington NatureMapping Program: Western Diamondback Rattlesnake