Rattlesnakes are the kinds of creatures that inform countless legends and stories of the outdoors. Their unmistakable rattling sparks an immediate instinctive reaction in most animals, and in people, too, warning them to stay away lest the snake attempt to strike. As such, the snakes inspire fear and myths in ways that many other reptiles do not. What do you really know about the life cycle and habits of rattlesnakes?
Rattlers are not fond of cold places. They are – by far – most common in warmer areas where they can bask in the sun and hunt for their prey without fear of freezing to death. As such, they have many adaptations that make them well-suited for environments that would cook other creatures. Where do you think these snakes make their homes?
Both juvenile and adult rattlesnakes are feared for their venomous bites. Only a few people die each year from rattlesnake strikes, and they almost all have one thing in common. Do you know what one thing that is? These animals are anything but the stuff of horror films. They’re mostly docile toward humans and merely want to live in peace, controlling small animal populations that would otherwise cause people more problems. Take a bite out of this rattlesnake quiz now!
They certainly don't have mittens. What's one way rattlesnakes stay warm when the weather cools?
Cue the nervous laughter. It's not a nightmare -- it's real life, and yes, rattlesnakes often swarm together in dens and bundle themselves together to stay warm. Don't let that thought keep you up at night.
It's definitely not a baby toy. What's the purpose of a rattlesnake's rattle?
Rattlesnakes don't want to be some other animal's lunch. They warn off predators by shaking that little rattle for all it's worth.
Rattlesnakes are ectothermic. What does that mean?
All rattlesnakes -- like most reptiles -- are ectothermic, or cold-blooded. So unlike mammals they can't regulate their body temperatures, meaning they have to seek warmer and cooler places when appropriate to stay alive.
It's the most vital thing to remember in an emergency. What's the number one thing you should do if you're struck by a rattlesnake?
Hardly anyone ever dies from rattlesnake bites. The vast majority (of that tiny number) never seek medical treatment, a mistake that can sometimes be fatal.
They're creatures of habit. Where will you most often find rattlesnake dens?
Rattlesnakes typically like warm, dry places. They tend to select dens on south-facing slopes for maximum sun exposure.
Can you complete this fact about rattlesnakes? They are _____ vipers.
Rattlesnakes are categorized as pit vipers, thanks to the pits located near their eyes. These pits help them sense heat … like the warmth given off by potential prey.
It's a distinctive trait in these animals. In most cases, what is the shape of a rattlesnake's head?
It's a shape that should instinctively warn you. Rattlesnakes have distinctive triangular heads that make them stand out from many similar-looking reptiles.
What's the number one item on a rattlesnake's dinner menu?
Rattlesnakes are very good at controlling vermin like mice and rats. They consume a lot of rodents wherever they live.
The warnings are everywhere. In addition to rattling, what other way does a rattlesnake scare off potential predators?
Rattlesnakes really want to scare you away. They rattle and also emit a loud hissing sound from their throats, all the better to keep you at a distance.
Physics matter. What must a rattlesnake do before it strikes?
Rattlesnakes can't strike if their bodies are elongated. They must first coil … but this process takes just a brief moment. In the flash of an eye, the snakes can sink their fangs into a target.
What's the first thing that rattlers do after devouring prey?
Rattlers are sluggish and slow after slamming down entire rodents, a fact that makes them vulnerable. So they immediately hide after their meals, digesting in peace.
They aren't everywhere. Where would you most likely find a Mojave rattlesnake?
The southwestern U.S. is where you'll find the Mojave rattlesnake. It prefers hot, dry environments and is often found in scrubby, sparse brush.
If you're bitten by a rattlesnake, what's the FIRST indication of a real problem?
There's no doubt about it -- rattlesnake bites hurt. Intense pain is the first sensation you'll feel, and it's a sign that you need to take quick, calm action.
They're toothy fellows. What do a rattlesnake's fangs do when they're not being used for an attack?
When they're inactive, the snake's fangs relax into a folded position in the mouth. But in an instant, those fangs can extend and sink themselves deep into your calf.
How do most rattlesnakes find and kill their prey?
Rattlesnakes lie in wait for their victims. They remain very still and then strike at prey as it passes their position in hiding.
It's common in some diets. What does rattlesnake meat taste like?
Rattlesnake meat is by no means toxic. Many people eat these snakes, and it reportedly tastes a lot like chicken.
Stop and think. If you're bitten by a rattlesnake, what should NOT do?
It some old adventure movies you'll see people tryng to "suck" the venom out of a snake bite. This is pointless exercise and wastes precious time.
How do rattlesnakes add segments to their rattles?
It's a common misconception that these snakes add a section to their rattles for each year of their lives. A new segment appears after each skin-shedding process, which can happen multiple times each year.
What's the purpose of the Loreal Pits on the side of a rattlesnake's face?
The Loreal Pits on a snake's face serve a vital function. They detect temperature changes and allow this cold-blooded animal to adjust its behavior accordingly.
It's no laughing matter. You should treat all rattlesnake bites as if they are what?
Not all rattlesnake bites contain venom … but you should act as if they do. Treat them as life-threatening and you may well save someone's life.
About how long can rattlesnakes live?
Rattlesnakes in healthy environments can live for a very long time. Some may live as long as 25 years.
When are rattlesnakes mostly likely to strike?
Unlike in that horror movie you saw, rattlesnakes aren't bloodthirsty aggressive monsters. They typically strike only when they feel like they are in danger.
It's just like parts of the human body. What material makes up the rattlesnake's rattle?
Keratin is a tough substance that makes up your fingernails. It's the same stuff that's found in the snake's rattle, creating a number of loose segments that make sound when shaken.
A rattlesnake encounters a pond. What's it going to do?
Some species of rattlesnakes are found in mostly dry environments. But they're very capable swimmers, gliding through waters with ease.
They are bigger than you. What's the longest recorded rattlesnake?
Eastern Diamondbacks are known for reaching a large size. The biggest one on record was more than eight feet long … long enough to wind its way into your worst nightmares.
They are not metabolic sprinters. How often do adult rattlers need to eat?
Snakes in general digest their live prey at a slow pace. Rattlers eat about once every two weeks and then go back to sunbathing.
The Mojave rattlesnake is renowned for which aspect of its biology?
The Mojave rattlesnake has the world's most dangerous rattlesnake venom. Its neurotoxic effects often don't seem too terrible at first … but then cause terrible problems after a few hours.
What do mother rattlesnakes do as soon as they give birth to their young?
After carrying eggs for three months, female rattlers have had it with the whole motherhood thing. They give birth to live young and then dart off, leaving the babies to fend for themselves.
In evolutionary terms, they're fairly new. How many rattlesnake species are there?
There are 29 rattlesnake species. In the U.S. they are most common in warmer regions of the South rather than places that experience hard winters.
Look at the cute babies! How are rattlesnake young born?
Rattlesnakes don't need silly eggs. Like people, they have live young, which immediately begin their slithering and and sliding.
About what percentage of rattlesnake bites contain no venom?
Not all rattlers want to use their precious venom for defensive strikes. About 25% of bites are "dry," containing little or no venom. But you should treat all bites as if they could potentially kill you.
How fast does a rattlesnake rattle its tail?
Rattlers shake their tails for all they're worth to warn off other creatures. They can shake their tails at a rate of about 60 times per second.
They're just little guys. How dangerous are baby rattlesnakes to humans?
Baby rattlesnakes aren't armed with as much venom as their parents. But in the wrong situation they do have enough venom to seriously hurt humans.
In the U.S. and Canada, about how many people each year are bitten by rattlesnakes?
The U.S. and Canada feature a lot of rattlesnakes of various species. Roughly 7,500 people are bitten each year. Very few die.
Keep your eyes peeled. How often do adult rattlesnakes rattle their tails before striking?
Contrary to popular belief, rattlesnakes don't always use their trademark warning before striking. That means you have to use your eyes as well as your ears when roaming snake territory.
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