Texas has always been the home of all things “big.” In fact, the Lone State’s famous saying is “Everything’s big in Texas!” That statement generally holds true for barbeque and land mass, but it also seems true for the wildlife. One of the largest venomous snakes in the entire country lives in Texas and is responsible for some of the most bites of any snake around. Let’s discover the largest rattlesnake in Texas.
What is the largest species of rattlesnake in Texas?
The largest species of rattlesnake in Texas is the western diamondback rattlesnake, otherwise known as the Texas diamondback.
Texas is home to some of the most diverse wildlife in the United States. Among that diversity are many snakes, many of which are venomous. In fact, Texas has around 15 different types of venomous snakes within its borders. Still, none are as well-known or as prevalent as the western diamondback.
The western diamondback is the largest venomous snake in the state and the second largest in the country. They grow four feet long regularly, although five-foot individuals aren’t all that uncommon. The largest western diamondback recorded was around seven feet long and weighed around 15 lbs.
They get their name from their distribution and their pattern. The diamondback pattern is dusty gray, although some individuals can come in shades of red, pink, or chalk.
Western diamondback rattlesnake: distribution and habitat
As its name suggests, the western diamondback can be found across the western portion of the United States. It currently has a distribution from central Arkansas to California and as far south as Veracruz, Mexico. It can be found in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and California. Some reported sightings include southern Kansas. In Texas, the western diamondback can be found in the western two-thirds of the state.
Western diamondback is generally found in coastal plains, rocky canyons, gorges, and hillsides. It is quite variable in the type of habitat it resides in, with a range that includes deserts, scrublands, grasslands, and even pine-oak forests.
Is the western diamondback rattlesnake dangerous?
The western diamondback is one of the most dangerous snakes in the United States. Like all rattlesnakes, they belong to the pit viper family. The heat-sensing pits can identify pit vipers on their snouts that are used for hunting prey through body heat. Other pit vipers include the copperhead and cottonmouth, although rattlesnakes are the more dangerous of the three. Overall, rattlesnakes are the most deadly in the US by fatality, although few people die each year from bites.
The venom of the western diamondback is known to contain proteolytic enzymes that destroy tissues in the victim. The result is a hemotoxic venom that mostly affects the blood vessels, blood cells, and heart.
The local symptoms of the venom include pain, heavy internal bleeding, severe swelling, severe muscle damage, bruising, blistering, and tissue necrosis. Other bodily symptoms include headache, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, dizziness, and convulsions.
Although these snakes are extremely dangerous, proper medical treatment almost always results in total recovery.
Western diamondback rattlesnake: Diet
Despite its dangerous venom, the western diamondback mostly eats small mammals. Some studies show that small mammals make up 95% of their regular prey. The western diamondback preys on most common species, including prairie dogs, kangaroo rats, gophers, voles, wood rats, pocket mice, harvest mice, squirrels, jackrabbits, rabbits, and more.
Outside of small mammals, western diamondbacks are known to prey on small birds and reptiles at lower rates. Common species include mockingbirds, quail, owls, larks, whiptails, spiny lizards, geckos, and more.
What is the largest species of rattlesnake in the United States?
Although the western diamondback is an extremely large and venomous snake, it isn’t the largest! That record belongs to its closely related cousin, the eastern diamondback. The eastern diamondback rattlesnake can be found along the eastern coast, from Louisiana to North Carolina. They are recognized as the largest rattlesnake in the world and the heaviest venomous snake in the United States. On average, they grow between 3-6 feet long, although they have been recorded upwards of 8 feet long.
Discover the “Monster” Snake 5X Bigger than an Anaconda
Every day A-Z Animals sends out some of the most incredible facts in the world from our free newsletter. Want to discover the 10 most beautiful snakes in the world, a “snake island” where you’re never more than 3 feet from danger, or a “monster” snake 5X larger than an anaconda? Then sign up right now and you’ll start receiving our daily newsletter absolutely free.