Learn powerful up to date methods from the experts that will stop Diamondback Ratttlesnakes in their tracks and get rid of them for good.
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All About Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes
A legendary tale in my family tree revolves around the tail of an Eastern diamondback rattlesnake. Where some people tremble in fear, others act to protect their families… and their fishing holes. When the conversation turns to snakes, the rattle with 14 segments comes out of the drawer and the tale begins. Growing up in the setting depicted by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings in her novels of the Florida scrub, my dad naturally had a favorite fishing spot on the Ocklawaha River. Until one day, an Eastern diamondback rattler moved into his fishing hole. In pure Florida Cracker fashion, he came home, got a shovel, and removed the threat. The severed rattle remains in the family drawer of fish tales to this day; when it is shown and the story told, the rattle inspires not only respect for the man who killed it, but also respect for the massive beast from which it came.
Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes are the largest venomous snakes in North America. Endemic to the pine scrubs of Florida and Georgia, the eastern diamondback rattler incites fear and terror in many. However, in truth, rattlesnakes prefer to hide, slither away, and show their fangs or rattle their tail rather than bite. However, their venom is deadly, and most bites happen when people are trying to get rid of the rattlesnake or remove it from an area. In the story relayed above, my dad was very lucky he avoided a rattlesnake strike. We do not recommend non-professionals attempt to remove venomous snakes like the eastern diamondback. Here at Nextgen Pest Solutions, we have professionally trained and equipped snake handlers who can quickly and safely remove eastern diamondback rattlesnakes from your home or yard.
How To Identify the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
If you’re a hunter, fisherman, hiker, or have an outdoor adventurous streak of any kind, you should know the venomous snakes in your area. All species of rattlesnakes are venomous and are easily identified by the rattle at the end of their tail. Some areas have both eastern diamondback rattlesnakes and timber rattlesnakes. They are both venomous pit vipers and their distinction is chiefly an academic exercise.
Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes, Crotalus adamanteus are the largest venomous snake in the United States. Some people claim to have killed eastern diamondback rattlers as large as 8 feet in length, but have not produced proof. Many specimens have been cataloged that are over 7 feet in length, but average size for an adult eastern diamondback rattlesnake is around 5.5 to 6 feet in length.
Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes have a tan, brown, or yellowish background color. Atop the background color are black diamond-shaped patterns. These black diamonds are outlined in a cream color. Its tail is usually a different shade than its body, with dark rings encircling it, the tail ends with a rattle. Like all pit vipers, the eastern diamondback rattlesnake has a broad wide head and a narrow neck. This wide head allows for room for its large fangs and venom gland. If you dare look this fearsome snake in the eyes, you will notice black stripe or band over its eyes; it almost looks like it is wearing the mask of Zorro. This snake is hefty and stout in appearance, rather than slender and graceful like a ribbon snake. An adult eastern diamondback rattlesnake on average weighs about 10 pounds. The males of this species are larger than the females, which is unusual in the snake world.
The thermal pit for which pit vipers are famous is found between its eye and its nostril. This heat-sensing organ allows the rattler to sense exactly where its warm-blooded prey is located. With precise execution, the eastern diamondback rattlesnake can strike its prey and inject its destructive venom.
When baby rattlers are born, they are about 15 inches in length with a “button” at the end of their tail which will be the beginning of the rattle. The neonates color and diamond pattern are the same as the adult.
Range and Habitat of Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes
Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes are native to the southeast region of the United States. Predominantly found throughout Florida and south Georgia, eastern diamondback rattlesnakes are also located in the Lower Coastal Plain from southern North Carolina west to Louisiana along the Gulf Coast. There has been chatter about placing this snake species on the Endangered Species List as the population is dramatically lower than it used to be. They are protected in North Carolina as they are nearly extinct in that state. Rattlesnake numbers are dwindling because of habitat loss and also because people fear them. There is an active market for the skin of the eastern diamondback rattlesnake for boots, bags, and belts.
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes thrive in scrublands and sandy pine flatwoods. They can be found in coastal forests and on barrier islands. They don’t prefer to nestle in overtly wet soil but can tolerate moist areas such as the border of wetlands or the bank of a river. Surprisingly, eastern diamondback rattlesnakes are capable swimmers. They have been spotted miles from land in the Florida Keys and swimming between the mainland and the barrier islands in Georgia. Eastern diamondback rattlers are capable of climbing trees, although it is rare. They prefer to burrow in gopher tortoise holes to hide themselves and keep their temperature regulated below ground.
Within their range they are well adapted to survive. They are most often found burrowed underground to escape the heat of the fierce southern sun. Diamondbacks are most active in the evenings and early mornings. In the heat of the day, they usually conceal themselves in thick foliage or undergrowth or under rocks or ledges. Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes are known for taking over holes burrowed out by other animals. These snakes do not dig their own holes; with their style of venom, they don’t have to do the work, they commandeer holes dug by other animals. Gopher tortoises, armadillos, and some species of rodents excavate the holes used by rattlers. Rattlesnakes also hide in stump holes and root channels. A good rule of thumb is to never put your hand or arm inside a hole in your yard; you never know what lurks inside. If you find what you believe to be a snake hole in your yard, do not pour gasoline or bleach down the hole. This practice is dangerous to the environment and harms many non-target animals. If necessary, you can fill a hole with sand, cover it with a stone, or block it with snake netting or steel wool.
The Defensive Behaviors of the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes
Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes are not considered aggressive snakes. In fact, they would rather run from a fight than engage. Biting a human is their last resort; we are not a potential food source. They bite because they are scared, not because they are evil. Most would-be snake encounters never materialize because rattlesnakes often simply slither off or escape into their hole when they sense us humans stomping through their woods. Sometimes, they choose to stand their ground… and that is where the characteristic rattle comes into play.
As the diamondback rattlesnake grows and sheds its skin, this excess keratin accumulates at the base of its tail. These individual buttons are hollow and interlock at the base of the snake’s tail. They are loosely attached, so when they jiggle, they make a sound distinct in the animal world, sounds kind of like a maraca. When the snake vibrates the powerful muscles in its tail, these rattles collide against each other, warning any creature within hearing distance to back off or risk an injection of deadly venom. Rattlesnakes can vibrate their tail at the astounding speed of 50-100 shakes per second! They can maintain this speed for hours if so compelled. Because these buttons/rattles are hollow, the noise reverberates loudly and clearly through the forest.
A common myth is you can tell the age of a rattlesnake by counting the rattles. This is not true. Rattlesnakes shed their skin more often when they are juveniles, then it slows down as they mature. Additionally, these buttons on the rattle are made of keratin, like our nails and hair. Just like our nails and hair occasionally break, the rattles on a snake can be damaged and broken off. Fierce battles with predators or skidding across rough terrain will break off the rattles. Usually, an adult rattlesnake maintains 10-12 rattles on its tail.
Scientists have noticed that rattle snake personalities vary from snake to snake. Some diamondback rattlers will start to shake their rattle while you are still 20-30 feet away. Other rattlesnakes, who have elected to not run away, will wait until you are waaaaay too close for comfort before they begin to shake their rattle. In addition to their distinctive rattle, they perform a few other threatening behaviors. They coil their big bulky bodies up so their full breadth is appreciated and feared. They raise their head in the air proving their readiness to strike. They also make a menacing hissing sound which should serve to cause the bravest among us to back away. If after all of these warnings, you persist in encroaching upon the rattlesnake, you will feel the wrath of its fangs and the fire of its venom. Rattlesnakes have an impressive reach. From where it threatens, it can effectively strike out up to 2/3 its body length. For example, a 6-foot diamondback rattler can bite you even if you stand 4 feet away. When warned by a rattlesnake, do not hesitate, back away. Rattlesnakes are not known to pursue humans. Oftentimes, when you start to back away, the snake will scoot backwards, keeping its eyes on you, until it disappears into a bush or its hole.
Eating Habits of the Eastern Diamondback Rattler
Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes are natural exterminators. With their deadly venom and sly camouflage they are very effective ambush predators. Imperative to their hunting success is their ability to control the rattling of their tail. Just as they have the ability to shake their tail at an alarming rate of speed, they can also keep it deadly still. When they move across the ground, they usually keep the rattles slightly elevated so they don’t bump and rattle against rocks, leaves, and other obstructions.
When hunting, eastern diamondback rattlesnakes usually position themselves where they can remain still, blend into their surroundings, and where critters are likely to walk by. When injected into a small mammal such as a rat or a squirrel, rattlesnake venom kills the animal, but also serves to begin the digestive process. Just as human digestion begins with moistening our food with saliva, snake venom kills and deteriorates the flesh of the prey. Often, the venom does not immediately kill the prey; rather the snake will release the wounded animal after the initial strike. It then follows the wounded animal and swallows it whole once it dies.
Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes most often eat small mammals such as rats, mice, voles, moles, and larger rattlesnakes commonly eat rabbits and squirrels. Sometimes they consume lizards, frogs, and birds. Diamondback rattlesnakes find their prey by using scent and their heat sensing pit. With these effective food sourcing techniques, rattlesnakes usually feed at night. Adult snakes require a meal every 2-3 weeks, but juveniles grow quickly and may require a meal once a week. They swallow their meal whole, and it may take them 3-5 days to digest the meal. Generally, digestion happens quicker the warmer the snake’s body.
The Bite and Venom of the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
The eastern diamondback rattlesnake is the longest and heaviest venomous snake in the United States. Additionally, in comparison to its length, it has the longest fangs of any rattlesnake species. Rattlesnake fangs are the delivery mechanism of the deadly venom. Rattlesnake venom is stored in a venom gland, which is a modified saliva gland. This venom is delivered into the intended victim through the hypodermic needle-like fangs. However, the rattlesnake can choose whether or not to inject the venom; sometimes they bite but choose not to utilize their precious venom. Unfortunately, eastern diamondback rattlesnakes rarely effectuate dry, or non-venomous, bites. This species has some of the most toxic venom, and if they bite they often choose to pump more venom into humans than many other venomous snake species. Because of their large size, the potency of their venom, and the high volume of venom injected, the eastern and western diamondback rattlesnakes cause the most deaths from snakes in the United States.
The venom of the eastern diamondback rattlesnake is considered a hemotoxin. Because adult humans are so large compared to a snake and medical treatments are very effective, death from a rattlesnake bite is relatively rare. However, it is a medical emergency. You must get to the hospital as quickly as possible. People describe being bitten by a rattlesnake as having multiple hypodermic shots filled with fire. The searing heat pulsates in that area and is excruciatingly painful. As the pain throbs, swelling and discoloration of the skin begins. As the rattlesnake venom ravages your body, it destroys skin and flesh tissue. It may also destroy blood vessels causing internal bleeding. If left untreated, rattlesnake venom may cause circulatory system disruption and cause organ failure or death.
What To Do If Bit By A Rattlesnake
According to the Center for Disease Control about 7,000 – 8,000 people per year are bitten by venomous snakes in the United States. Thanks to highly effective antivenom treatments, there are about 5-6 snake bite deaths per year in the United States. You are 9 times more likely to die from a lightning strike than a snake strike in the United States. Although potent and deadly, an eastern diamondback rattlesnake bite is not a death sentence. Snake bite outcomes are highly dependent upon the time between the bite and when you arrive at the hospital. Additionally, small children and the immunocompromised may have more severe reactions. A rattlesnake bite is not a wait and see how you feel in the morning medical event. Even if you suspect a dry bite, get to a hospital where you can be monitored and treated if deemed medically necessary.
When hiking in the great outdoors, it is vitally important to be aware of your environment. This extends to being able to hear the sounds of the forest. Children, with their boundless energy, so thoroughly enjoy themselves outside that they sometimes cannot hear the rattlesnake’s warning. Additionally, hikers and runners often wear headphones or earbuds in order to fully appreciate the solitude of the forest. Depriving yourself of your sense of hearing may cause you to miss the warning of a threatened rattlesnake.
If you are bitten by a diamondback rattlesnake the most important thing is to stay calm. With clear thinking and quick medical attention your chances of survival are good.
Call 911 immediately – if you are hiking out of cell phone range or in an inaccessible area, walk slowly to the nearest civilization.
Remain calm – try to keep your heart rate low.
Remain as still as possible – keep the affected limb below the level of your heart.
Wash the puncture wound with soap and water and cover the bite with a clean, dry dressing.
Remove all jewelry before the swelling begins.
If a pen or marker is available, draw a circle around the bite and write the time. As the swelling and discoloration extends further away from the puncture wound circle the perimeter and write the time. This will give doctors an idea of how much venom your body is battling.
DO NOT try to pick up the snake – even if it is dead.
DO NOT cut the wound or the swollen area surrounding it.
DO NOT apply a tourniquet.
DO NOT try to suck the venom out of the wound or other folk remedies.
DO NOT ice the wound or immerse it in cold water.
DO NOT drink alcohol or take other painkillers.
Once you are at the hospital, you will be evaluated for injections of antivenom. Thankfully, a positive identification on the snake is not necessary to receive the antivenom. CroFab, the industry standard anti-venom for venomous snakes in the United States, is effective for all of the venomous pit vipers found in the United States, including rattlesnakes, copperheads, cottonmouths/water moccasins. This product binds to the toxic properties within your system and neutralizes their destructive powers. Once this antivenom is administered symptoms usually stop progressing and healing can begin. If doctors determine that you sustained a dry bite with no venom injected or minor envenomation, they may elect to not introduce the antivenom to your system. Regardless, this is a decision best left to professionals. With over 7,000 bites from venomous snakes per year, this antivenom likely saves thousands of lives per year.
How To Get Rid of Rattlesnakes
The eastern diamondback rattlesnake is not a guest anyone welcomes to their home or yard. Most snake bites occur when people accidentally step on them or when you try to get rid of them. If you have a known rattlesnake harboring in your yard, this is an unacceptable risk. Children, pets, visitors, even the UPS or Amazon delivery drivers are at risk. Here at Nextgen Pest Solutions, we offer a lot of advice and tips for do-it-yourself pest solutions. However, rattlesnake removal is a job best left to professionals. Our wildlife removal experts have the expertise and equipment necessary to safely and quickly get rid of rattlesnakes from your house or yard. If rattlesnakes are a chronic problem for you, you may consider a rodent control program. Like all animal species, rattlesnakes hang out where they can access a meal when they are hungry and where they have plenty of safe hiding places to digest that meal. They are not in your yard with deadly intentions towards your children, but a kid running to catch a ball or chasing a friend is not known for being the most observant citizen. Your rattlesnake crisis is our emergency when you call Nextgen Pest Solutions. Call today to put our experience to work for you.