The Western diamondback rattlesnake, common throughout North America, is just one of the many snake species that inhabit Texas. A member of the pit viper family, the venomous, six- to eight-foot-long diamondback is one of the world’s most dangerous snakes. The distinctive diamond pattern running the length of the snake’s body serves as camouflage.
When threatened or startled, the snake coils and vibrates the rattle at the tip of its tail, emitting a loud, rhythmic buzz. The sign of an impending strike, the snake may also raise its neck into an "S" curve; even when fully coiled, rattlesnakes can strike a distance equal to half their body length. Diamondbacks feed primarily on frogs, rodents, rabbits, lizards, and birds, all of which it can swallow whole.
Diamondbacks can be found in desert, grassland, woodland, and river bottom habitats; their longevity is approximately fifteen years. A nocturnal species, diamondbacks often spend their days coiled quietly in the shade where they can easily move in and out of the sun to regulate their body temperature.
In total, there are over fifteen species of rattlesnakes in the United States and they all have poisonous (toxic) venom. Other toxic venom snakes in the U.S. are water moccasin (also known as cottonmouth), copperhead, and two species of coral snake. Several harmless snake species have coloration similar to the poisonous coral snake; the following mnemonic proves useful in differentiating the innocuous snakes from the toxic ones, based on the arrangement of their color bands:
“Red on black, poison lack;
Red on yellow, kill a fellow.”
Contact the National Poison Center Hotline if you are bitten by a snake or other venomous creature.
Virtually any grassy or brushy area in Texas can yield viewing opportunities for various snake species. The western diamondback pictured on this page was spotted at Mitchell Lake Wetlands in San Antonio.