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  • The 24-36 inch copperhead is responsible for approx. 35 % of all venomous bites in USA. Read More
  • Cottonmouth snakes forage by ambushing their prey, and will avoid humans at all costs. Read More
  • The average death rate from krait bites in Asia is 7 %. It is highly feared in India. Read More
  • The puff adder can strike with lightning speed and most of its victims are from Africa. Read More
  • Cobra's are the largest and deadliest snakes in the world. Read More
  • Known by its triangular head. The venom from the Russel's viper causes renal failure within hours.
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  • The rattlesnakes rattle is composed of scales. Amputations from its bite are common.
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  • The taipan snake has the lowest LD50-value of all snakes. 0.030 mg/kg can kill 50 people.
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  • The death adder can attract prey by wiggling its tail. Its venom is slow to take effect.
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  • The boomslang is long and slender perfectly camouflaged African snake.
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  • Burrowings asps have the longest fangs relative to their head size of any snakes.
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  • The Moorish viper is the largest viper in Africa. It has a zig-zag pattern on its body.
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  • The horned viper is a typical ambusher. Usually, its bite is not deadly.
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  • See a top 5 list of the most venomous snakes in the world.
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Rattlesnake Facts: More Bites but the Same Number of Fatalities

By Anders Nielsen, Ph.d.

Rattlesnakes belong to a genus named Crotalus consisting of numerous sub-species. The name rattlesnake has its origin in the rattle at the tip of their tails. The rattle is primarily used as a warning device when threatened.

Envenomations from rattlesnakes account for a significant portion of all poisonings in North America (Schaper et al., 2004)1, and apparently, the number of Rattlesnake bites is increasing.

Even in Europe, the number of rattlesnake bites is increasing because more and more people keep rattlesnakes as pets (ibid).

Rattlesnake Bites

From the perspective of the rattlesnake, the purpose of a bite is to stun or kill a prey instantaneously. If the prey escapes the envenomation, the rattlesnake will follow its trail, wait until it is completely weakened, and eventually swallow it.

Rattlesnakes are capable of adjusting the amount of venom they use. If the rattlesnake only feels threatened, it may not deliver a full dose of poison into the attacker. However, a frightened or injured rattlesnake, or an inexperienced rattlesnake, may not be able to exercise such control.

Bites on humans usually occur when the snake is provoked or disturbed. Usually people are unaware of the range and speed of rattlesnakes, which even when coiled, is astonishing. They are also capable of striking uncoiled.

If you hike in rattlesnake territory, consider wearing pants and footwear reinforced with leather. If you encounter a Rattlesnake on a trail, keep your distance, and allow it to escape.

A western rattlesnake

Life Cycle

Rattlesnakes give live birth, and the female looks after the newborns for 7-12 days after birth.

Rattlesnake Venom

Most rattlesnake species have hemotoxic venom, which acts by destroying tissue and preventing blood clotting. In itself, the venom has a lower toxicity than venom from many other venomous snakes, but because of the volume of venom the rattlesnake can deliver, it is extremely dangerous.

Amputation of limbs and permanent scars are two visible consequences of rattlesnake bites. Approximately 1/200 receiving a bite from a rattlesnake will die because of the bite, even when antivenom is used in the treatment. A normal diamondback rattlesnake bite contains sufficient venom to cause fatalities in a total of 50 people, indicating that the majority of envenomations are relatively low dosis.

Some tropical species have neurotoxic venom. Victims of these tropical rattlesnakes will usually succumb due to suffocation in combination with malfunctioning of either lungs and or the circulatory system.

The Rattle

A rattlesnakes rattle is composed of modified scales from the tail. A new segment is added to the rattle every time it sheds it skins. If the rattle did not break, one could determine the age of the snake by looking at the numbers of rattle segments. A rough age estimate is, however, obtained by merely counting the segments on the rattle. The rattlesnake sheds its skin when it has grown large enough, and this will also depend on prey availability, weather conditions, etc. Under wet conditions, the rattle cannot make any noise, and newborn rattlesnakes cannot rattle either.

Mojave Rattlesnake

In general,rattlesnakes are not aggressive. However, occasionally the Mojave rattlesnake may behave aggressively towards humans. The Mojave rattlesnake is larger than most other rattlesnakes, ranging from 20 to 50 inches (0.5-1.3 m) in size.

Its coloration varies from olive green to yellow green, while its back is lined with dark grey diamond shaped markings resembling the ones observed on thediamondback rattlesnake. The tail of the Mojave is light grey to white with very short black bands. Its preferred habitat is in the desert and in areas with many shrubs. The Mojave forages during the night and prefers small animals, such as mice and rats.

Diamondback Rattlesnake

The diamondback rattlesnake is a large rattlesnake (30-84 inches) known by its diamond gray blotches on its back and its side. Its base color is a brown or gray, and its tail has alternating white and black rings. It also prefers areas with rocks and shrubs. It feeds on every animal that can be swallowed, even rabbits. They stand their ground when provoked and are considered very dangerous. It gives live birth (eggs hatch inside the female body) to small diamondback rattlesnakes with a length of approximately 8-12 inches. They can be found in many western parts of the U.S.

Sidewinder Rattlesnake

The sidewinder rattlesnake is one of the smallest rattlesnakes, ranging in size from 25 to 40 inches (0.6-1 m). Its preferred niche is sandy or loamy soil and sand. It likes hiding in the shade of bushes during daytime. A dark stripe is seen from its eyes, and the coloring of the body is brownish or grayish. It primarily feeds on small rodents and lizards.

References

1Schaper A, de Haro L, Desel H, Ebbecke M, Langer C "Rattlesnake bites in Europe - Experiences from southeastern France and northern Germany", Journal of Toxicology-clinical Toxicology 42(5) pp. 635-641 (2004)

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