Article by Thomas Baurley, Leaf McGowan, Technogypsie Research www.technogypsie.com on December 3, 2016.
Taxonomy: Kingdom: Animalia; Phylum: Chordata; Subphylum: Vertebrata; Class: Reptilia; Order: Squamata; Suborder: Serpentes; Family: Viperidae; Subfamily: Crotalinae. genera is either Crotalus or Sistrurus.
Common Names: Rattlesnake; diamond back; rattler
Rattlesnakes are found far and wide notably in drier climates, but very common in forests, grass lands, swamps, deserts, prairies, and scrub brush lands. Cold blooded, capable swimmers, and semi-aggressive serpents. They often habitat dens with other rattlesnakes. They can be found throughout North, Central, and South America. They are very common in the Western United States, Southern United States, Mexico, Central America, and South America. There are four species that can be found east of the Mississippi and two in South America. In the United States, the states that have the largest populations of rattlers are Arizona and Texas. They are an iconic inhabitant of the American southwest. Depending on the species, some can have extremely specific habitats while others range with altitudes. Most prefer open, rocky areas that give them camouflage ability to hide from predators and prey on food. They generally prefer temperatures between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit but can survive freezing temperatures briefly as low as 4 degrees Fahrenheit with survival means for several days as low as 37 degrees. They are oviparous meaning that they don’t lay eggs. Their eggs are carried within the female for approximately three months then live birth is given during delivery.
Rattlesnakes are amongst some of the most feared reptiles due to their venom and aggression. Rattlesnakes hunt their prey utilizing a heat sensing organ located in pits near their eyes that allow them to track the heat signature of creatures around them, especially effective at night. They often lay hidden in brush or rocks waiting for preferably a small rodent, mammal, lizard, or bird to be nearby within striking distance to stab with its fangs by means of “ambush predation”. They often smell with their tongues. They only need to eat once every two weeks. To protect themselves from predators, they warn with their rattle based on muscle contractions, some will have camouflage coloring to blend in with their surroundings, and others can be silent in order to slither away from danger. Known predators are birds of prey especially hawks, weasels, ferrets, king snakes, humans, and other large carnivorous mammals. If the rattler stands its ground, it will coil, appear ready to strike, and will usually not strike unless the presumed danger is within its striking range and it feels threatened. Most humans who are struck usually are toying with them, accidentally walked in their strike zone, surprised them, or tried to handle them.
Biology: Rattlers have a lifespan of approximately 10-25 years. There are 36 known species with 65-70 sub-species. They are ecto-thermic or cold-blooded, meaning they cannot regulate their own body temperatures and rely on their habitat to provide heat, most commonly from the sun, and is why they are often found basking in the sun. They often live with other rattlesnakes in dens wrapped up in balls within one another for warmth. Generally rattlesnakes have large bodies with triangular shaped heads and a rattle at the end of their tail. The rattles consist of a series of inter-locking scales, growing in age with the snake, that rattle when they sense a predator nearby. Their muscles contract causing the scales to click together creating a rattle-like sound. Rattlesnakes can grow upwards from 1 to 8 feet in length depending on species.
Rattlesnakes are often hunted for their skins, fangs, skull, rattles, and meat. They are often cooked like chicken, usually barbecued or fried. Running joke is the meat tastes like chicken.
Medicinal Uses: unknown. Venom is poisonous.
Magical Uses: Rattle, skull, and skin is often used in magical spells to attack, provoke, or protect. Often used in defensive spells. Rattlesnake iconography is used for visions and contacting the other world.
Rattlers were symbolic during the Revolutionary War as a symbol of the U.S. Military and various political movements. They are also found in stone sculptures as feathered serpents in Mexico City, Aztec paintings, Central American temples, and southeastern burial mounds as powerful Deity. Quetzalcoatl is a Meso-American Deity depicted as being feathered with rattles. The Maya depicted the rattlesnake as a “vision serpent” acting as a conduit for contacting the other world or other dimensions. The fundamentalist Christian religion known as the Pentecostal Church of God has a sub-sect that dances and/or snake handles rattlesnakes to prove their dedication in faith and to God or Jesus. This is based on the Bible verse Mark 16:17-18 reading “In my name .. they will pick up snakes with their hands.”
Folklore: Coming soon.
Types: Coming soon.
- National Wildlife Federation n.d. “Rattlesnakes”. Website referenced December 3, 2016 at http://www.nwf.org/wildlife/wildlife-library/amphibians-reptiles-and-fish/rattlesnakes.aspx.