Fun & Interesting Rattlesnake Facts

  • When a rattler “rattles”, the purpose is not primarily to warn you of an imminent strike. In fact, they may “bite” you without making a sound. Mr. Sidewinder’s famous sound is mostly a fear response. Due their low profile, this adrenaline-inducing noise is a survival adaptation, warning larger creatures not to step on them — or to try and eat them (someone like you!).  If you were rock climbing on a cool day and put your hand on a sunning rattler, or otherwise startled a snake, you could suffer a painful encounter without ever hearing the warning buzz.
  • Rattlesnakes shed their skin as a function of growth.  As their body increases in diameter and length, the skin does not, and so peels away or “sheds” at intervals depending upon how fast the snake is growing. Snake growth, like for most wild animals, is based on diet quality – the nutritional aspects and abundance of available food sources.
  • Every time a rattle snake sheds a skin, a new section of rattle forms.  Rattlers may shed their skin as often as three (3) to five (5) times during their first summer, and then one (1) to three (3) times per year, thereafter. Rattles are often accidentally broken off, so counting rattles on the tail does not always offer a good indication of age!
  • Rattlesnakes are born poisonous. While baby rattlers carry a smaller volume of venom, the toxins are MUCH more concentrated, making them very dangerous. Taking the time to avoid ‘miniature’ snakes, even if they look “cute” –  is a good idea.
  • Body length determines number of offspring born to a female rattlesnake… the bigger the “womb”, the more youngsters the madam viper can carry full term.
  • Rattlers are not immune to their own venom! However, to do much damage, the poison must be injected directly into the other snake’s blood stream.
  • Rattle snake fangs are FREQUENTLY lost and replaced, at intervals of UP TO eight weeks.
  • Rattlesnakes can consciously control the amount of venom released, whether from one or both fangs, and may choose not to inject venom at all – a lucky hit known as a “dry” bite.
  • Temperatures over 105 degrees are usually fatal to rattlesnakes (perhaps one reason they get a bit cranky in hot weather!)
  • As cold-blooded creatures, snakes are unable to control body temperatures like mammals do.  To keep cool during hot weather, they might use any combination of shade, soil moisture, or breezes. During cool weather, they often take advantage of southern exposure rocks, or heat-storing, man-made improvements such as pavement, to catch more warmth from the sun — one reason they often become ‘road kill’.
  • Even though associated with dry habitats by reputation, rattlesnakes are excellent swimmers. And some species even live in swampy wet conditions.
  • Typically, a snake can bite you from a distance of half to three-quarters of their body length away, whether coiled or not. However, an additional safety zone is recommended (:-) !