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Genus: Crotalus and Sistrurus (More than 50 different Species)

Geographical Locale

  • Found in all South American countries – except Ecuador and Chile – and some Caribbean islands. 


  • Two enlarged venom fangs fixed to the front of the mouth.
  • Solid teeth in both jaws.
  • Different species of rattlesnake vary significantly in size and markings.
  • Larger species can be as long as 8 feet.
  • Common feature is the ‘rattle’ on the end of their tails.
  • Rattlesnakes shed their skin several times a year and each time they shed a new segment is added to their ‘rattle’.


  • Highly poisonous. Normally haemotoxic – (destroys red blood cells) – although some of the tropical species have neurotoxic venom – (damaging to nerve tissue) - and potentially fatal.

The Bite

  • Generally fang marks at the site of the bite.
  • Swelling and bruising develops round the bite site – speed of development depends on amount of venom injected


  • Rattlesnakes give live birth rather than lay eggs
  • Young rattlesnakes are independent and self-sufficient from birth.
  • Most rattlesnakes mate in the spring.
  • Newborn rattlesnakes do not have ‘working rattles’.  It is only after their first skin shedding that their rattles function.


  • Typically live in dry savannah.
  • Rattlesnakes will, generally, move away from humans they encounter – but not always!  Generally they only attack if cornered or provoked.
  • Diet consists largely of small animals such as rabbits, rats, mice etc.,
  • Rattlesnakes kill their prey by injecting them with venom rather than constricting them.
  • Unusually, these snakes can strike without pulling themselves into the ‘S’ shape that most snakes do.  They also attack as far as two thirds of their length away from them.
  • Rattlesnakes are often found in and under boulders and logs as well as sunning themselves in the middle of trails.

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