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Rattlesnakes

 RATTLESNAKES OF THE SOUTERN ROCKIES
Remember:  If it makes noise, don't approach or touch.
Keep in mind that rules* are made to be broken.

 Western Diamondback
Western Diamondback
    

Prairie Rattlesnake
Prairie Rattlesnake

*photo by Creative Photo Art   
http://ntri.tamuk.edu/herpetarium/viperidae/c.v.viridis/cvviridis.html

Most people fear snakes and, for many, there is good reason.  People don't understand the snake's purpose in life or perhaps they have had a bad experience.  This site will provide useful information for the general public and additional sites for those more interested or wanting more information.  Please look for yourselves because this is only a brief summary of some of the venomous snakes found in the Southern Rockies.

Protection and Survival

What is venom and is it the same as poison?  No.  Most people are confused on this point.  Animal venom is injected into the victim and poison in consumed in some fashion.  Most people make the assumption that if it is harmful, it is poison.  Venom has the ability to do many different things depending on the variety.  Each rattlesnake species has evolved with different forms of venom to obtain their food.  The venom has the ability to paralyze, cause respiratory arrest or the breakdown of the blood.  All venoms start the digestion process, enabling the snake to digest its prey more quickly. 

Rattlesnakes will inject venom when needed, but not every time.  Many times, the snake will produce a dry, or a non-venom bite as a means of protection.  Even though there is no venom, it is still a serious injury.  They have a store of venom and can replace what is used given enough time.   Those adult rattlesnakes that are in captivity can be "milked" for their venom once every other week.  The 1-ml of venom from each snake milked is used in producing anti-venom, a snakebite antidote that is administered after a severe bite.

There are only a few threats to the survival of the rattlesnakes, man and his need for more space.  It is only through the intrusion of man into nature that the rattlesnake poses a threat of biting humans.

Snakebites

http://www.desertusa.com/mag98/mar/stories/rattlesin.html is a website that list all of the symptoms and treatments of a snakebite.

Below are the highlights:

Symptoms of a Rattlesnake Bite

  • One or two puncture marks
  • Numbness
  • Nausea , weakness and lightheadedness.
  • Difficulty breathing
  • First Aid for Snakebites

According to the American Red Cross, these steps should be taken:

  • Wash the bite with clean water and soap.
  • Immobilize the bitten area and keep it lower than the heart.
  • If the bite is on the hand or arm remove any rings, watches or tight clothing.
  • Get medical help immediately.  (30 minutes)
  • A loose bandage to restrict the flow of venom. (1 finger loose)


***  Of the reported snakebites on humans, a large number are caused by provocation, and of those nearly all are attributed to males between 20 and 50 years of age and almost all of those men were involved with the use of alcohol.***

Reproduction

As with all vertebrate animals, snakes reproduce sexually.  The difference is that rattlesnakes do not lay eggs outside their bodies.  They are ovoviviparous.  That is to say, they give birth to live young.  The young are capable of self-defense, and they are not cared for by their parents after birth.  The number of offspring varies from species to species, but 10-25 is average.

Habitats

Most rattlesnakes in this area will live in and around rocks and underbrush, grasslands and even along streams and in forest floors.   This means that the Southern Rockies give the rattlesnakes plenty of places to hide and ambush prey or people that might be exploring without regard for their own safety.   Since rattlesnakes are ectothermic, environmental temperature responsive, they must be aware of weather conditions and changes in seasons.  The Rockies afford the snakes opportunity to move where they can regulate their body temperature for optimum efficiency for survival.

Food

Rodents, lizards, ground birds and even other snakes make up most of the diet of rattlesnakes.

Number of species

There are 84 species and subspecies of rattlesnakes in the world.   The following website lists all of them and provides pictures for many of them.   http://www.venomousreptiles.org/pages/rattlesnake

Of these, 18 are found in the Southwest, 8 of which are subspecies.  All 17 are found in Arizona and certain ones of these can be found in Utah, Colorado and New Mexico.

Here is a list of common names for those venomous rattlesnakes found in Arizona:

  • Western Diamondback Rattlesnake
  • Mojave Desert Sidewinder
  • Sonoran Desert Sidewinder
  • Colorado Desert Sidewinder
  • Banded Rock Rattlesnake
  • Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake
  • Black-tailed Rattlesnake
  • Twin Spotted Rattlesnake
  • Mojave Rattlesnake
  • Tiger Rattlesnake
  • Grand Canyon Rattlesnake
  • Arizona Black Rattlesnake
  • Great Basin Rattlesnake
  • Hopi Rattlesnake
  • Prairie Rattlesnake
  • Ridge-Nose Rattlesnake
  • New Mexico Ridge-Nose Rattlesnake
  • Desert Massasauga

 

Western Coral Snake 

One other snake, not likely to be seen in the Southern Rockies, is the Coral Snake.   West Texas is as close as it probably would get.  It is extremely venomous and should not be approached.  Unlike the rattlesnakes, it lays eggs.  The Coral snake lays 1-3 eggs and hatches them in a nest.   There are several mimics.   That is there are several snakes that have similar coloration patterns, but the general rule is  "red touch yellow, kill a fellow; red touch black, don't jump back."

 Western Coral Snake

Links
For more Coral snake info:

http://www.enature.com/fieldguide/showSpeciesSH.asp?
curGroupID=7&shapeID=1060&curPageNum=60&recnum=AR0198

http://coloherp.org/geo/snakekey.html  has a key to aid in identification of snakes

For additional help in identification of snakes by means of pictures:  http://www.arizonaherpetological.com/

Website by Roy C. Watkins
RoyCWatkins@hotmail.com
Camden-Fairview Junior High School
870-836-9361


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