RATTLESNAKE (genera Crotalus and Sistrurus)
Rattlesnakes are venomous snakes of the subfamily Crotalinae (the pit vipers). All rattlesnakes are vipers. Rattlesnakes are predators that live in a wide array of habitats, hunting small animals such as birds and rodents. Rattlesnakes receive their name from the rattle located at the end of their tails, which makes a loud rattling noise when vibrated that deters predators or serves as a warning to others near by. Rattlesnakes are the leading contributor to snakebite injuries in North America, but rarely bite unless provoked or threatened; if treated promptly, the bites are seldom fatal. The 36 known species of rattlesnakes have between 65 and 70 subspecies, all native to the Americas, ranging from British Columbia through Ontario in southern Canada, to central Argentina. The largest rattlesnake, the eastern diamondback, can measure up to 8 ft (2.4 m) in length.
Rattle snakes are cold blooded animals and are most active during the warmer months of spring and summer. They usually hibernate during the colder months but can be active year round in warmer climates and desert areas.
The gastric fluids of rattlesnakes are extremely powerful, allowing for the digestion of flesh and bone. Optimal digestion occurs when the snake maintains a body temperature between 80 and 85 °F (25 and 29 °C). If the prey is small, the rattlesnake often continues hunting. If the meal was adequate, the snake finds a warm, safe location in which to coil up and rest until the prey is digested. Feeding habits play an important ecological role by limiting the size of rodent populations, which prevents crop damage and stabilizes ecosystems.
Rattlesnakes can be a danger to humans as well as pets. Economic impact pales in significance when considered in the light of the physical and emotional harm that could be suffered by a person or a pet that chanced upon a provoked rattler. Rattlesnakes tend to avoid wide-open spaces where they cannot hide from predators, and generally avoid humans if they are aware of their approach. Rattlesnakes rarely bite unless they feel threatened or provoked. A majority of victims are males. Around half of bites occur in cases where the victim saw the snake, yet made no effort to move away.
Rattlesnakes are occasional invaders that will linger on a property if the conditions are conducive to habitation. The main attraction to a property would be a food source such as mice, rats, voles, squirrels and the like. Reducing rodent populations on a property can be one of the most effected management methods in controlling rattlesnakes. Snake repellents and physical barriers can be effective in moving snakes away from buildings and property lines.