Encyclopedia Article


A venomous pit viper best known for the segmented rattle at the end of its tail. Pit vipers find their prey, even in the dark, through heat-sensing pits located on their faces. There are thirty-three species of rattlesnakes found in North, Central, and South America; however, the main areas with rattlesnakes include northern Mexico and the U.S. Southwest. While rattlesnake venom can be fatal, rattlesnakes are not aggressive and, unless provoked or startled, will not attack. Rattlesnakes come in various colors with geometric patterns, and they can range in length from one to six feet.

Like most reptiles, rattlesnakes lay and brood eggs in late summer, with broods averaging from four to ten young. From birth, these young rattlesnake have fangs and glands that produce a potent venom. As they are young and inexperienced, a young rattlesnake is more likely to attack then an older snake.

Photo Credit: 

"Prairie Rattlesnake, August 11, 2010" by Tatiana Gettelman is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA.