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Western Diamondback Rattlesnake
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Crotalus atrox
ORDER: Squamata
FAMILY: Viperidae
RANGE: Southwestern United States
HABITAT: Arid grasslands, forest, and desert
DIET: Small vertebrates, such as rodents and birds
ENEMIES: Large cats, hogs and humans

The Western Diamondback Rattlesnake is one of the most frequently encountered snakes in the southwest. It is a lie-in-wait predator that uses its heat-sensing pits to identify prey as it passes by. The snake strikes quickly and bites the prey, which soon succumbs to their venom. Components of the snake’s venom begin the process of digesting the food even before it is ingested.

Western Diamondbacks hibernate in dens that can contain multiple snakes and species; many of which are endangered or threatened. Upon emerging in the spring, the males combat for the right to breed nearby females. The female gives birth to up to 25 live young in late summer. These 10-12 inch neonates are fully capable of envenomation shortly after birth.

Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes are the primary species exploited in “Rattlesnake Roundups” across the Southwestern United States. For each of these events, hundreds, and even thousands of animals are taken from the wild, often by the cruel and environmentally unsound practice of pumping gasoline into burrows in order to drive out the snakes. This kills many animals (not just rattlesnakes!) and renders the den unusable for some time. Once captured, they are brought to a carnival-like event where they are used in “snake shows”, often beheaded, and skinned. For more information go to The Humane Society of the United States website at http://www.hsus.org/wildlife/issues_facing_wildlife/rattlesnake_roundups/.