For the first time in our history, a brood of eastern diamondback rattlesnakes were born on July 27th. Eight snakes have been reported eating and shedding at a healthy rate. At birth, each rattlesnake had a single black “button” at the tip of its tail, which is their first rattle. With each shed, they will accumulate another rattle. Diamondbacks can shed multiple times a year, which is why counting rattles is an inaccurate way to determine the age.
Photo by Cayle P. (Assistant Curator or Herps, Birds, and Others) of baby snake with button showing
On the day our diamondbacks were born, each snake weighed between 44 to 54 grams (think golf and tennis balls). To think that one day these tiny snakes will weigh as much as their mother and father, 1.1 and 3 kg, respectively. Diamondbacks are the largest venomous snakes in North America. In the wild, they can grow up to 100 to 150 cm; the maximum length recorded being 244 cm.
Photo by Cayle P.
Unlike what most people expect, diamondbacks do not lay eggs. Instead, they give birth to live young. The female will find an abandoned gopher tortoise burrow, give birth, and stay with her young until their first shed after a few weeks.
Photo by Cayle P. of mother Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake hiding her young
Their keeled scales, heavy-bodied appearance, light-bordered diamond pattern, and two distinct light stripes running from eye to jaw are traits most often used to identify these rattlesnakes in the wild. Once spotted, however, it is best to stay as far away as possible. A diamondback’s striking distance can be up to two-thirds its body length. Therefore, a 6-foot snake could potentially strike up to 4 feet. And contrary to popular belief, rattlesnakes do not rattle their tails in warning.
Photo by Jasmine A.
For everyone’s safety, do not approach them in the wild. If you want a good look, come instead to the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, where we can promise a thick pane of glass is between you and our venomous critters.
Written by Jasmine Alvarado, Species Management Officer