Southwestern Field Herpetology

Southwestern Field Herpetology
Sep
25th
2009

Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes: Variation, Quantities, & Life Lessons

Although they are very common, I always love seeing Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes, Crotalus atrox. They’re big, decently variable in appearance, and even moreso in attitude. In the Phoenix area, most that I see are grey or otherwise fairly bland in color, but they can also have shades of pink, red, and a great amount of variation in their distinctive pattern … from clean and defined, high contrast, to washed out two-tone.

Here are a few I’ve found within 2 days in 2009, within 70 miles of eachother.

This one was found in an interesting area along the New Mexican border with Arizona, where I have seen much more variety in this species than in other places. It has a beautiful red coloration.

Red-Phase Western Diamondback Rattlesnake
Red-Phase Western Diamondback Rattlesnake
Western Diamondback Rattlesnake
Western Diamondback Rattlesnake
Western Diamondback Rattlesnake
Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

This second snake was MASSIVE. It was probably the largest diamondback I’ve ever seen; right around 5′. Although this isn’t too uncommon in other places like Texas, here in Arizona this is seldom achieved. The snake also has a reduced pattern, and a nice pink tail. It was also kitten-tame, which just makes it difficult to photograph. I was really impressed with this big girl.

Diamondback Rattlesnake
Diamondback Rattlesnake
Western Diamondback
Western Diamondback

Here’s one with a very clean pattern with more typical coloration, and a bad attitude, resulting in the clasic “S” pose the diamondback is famous for. I had to snap these quickly, as the storm you see in the background was dropping lightning all around us. This is definitely one way to get some adrenaline into the bloodstream.

Back off man!
Back off man!
Crotalus atrox
Crotalus atrox
Crotalus atrox
Crotalus atrox
Crotalus atrox
Crotalus atrox

Here’s another with a minimal pattern, which would have appeared a nice pink color in the daytime.

Crotalus atrox
Crotalus atrox

Here is a very young neonate, only about the size of a pencil.

Baby Rattlesnake
Baby Rattlesnake

… and another young snake, this one with a year or two under its belt.

Crotalus atrox
Crotalus atrox

Here’s a very dark individual with a great deal of speckling in the pattern.

Crotalus atrox
Crotalus atrox

… and another tiny baby with seemingly too many diamonds, and strong white bands separating them.

baby rattlesnake
baby rattlesnake

You may want to note the button on this snake if you currently believe that baby rattlesnakes are born without a rattle. It is true that the thing is useless at this point, though the snake tries his little head off to scare you away by shaking it regardless. Rattlesnakes are born with a prebutton, which gains a rattle-able link by the second shed.

Baby atrox
Baby atrox

… and one last baby just to make this post way too long.

Baby rattle snake
Baby rattle snake

Even though these were found within a very short time of one another, this is only a small fraction of the incredible number of diamondbacks we found on this trip. We found a total of 82 snakes on this trip all in all, the majority being diamondbacks that were just escorted off the road. I made the mistake in the past of not photographing these snakes as often as other, less common species. In the meantime, I’ve grown a great deal more knowledgeable about rattlesnakes, and it only occurred to me after examining these pictures upon returning from this trip where I’d made a point to photograph more diamondbacks that I had been missing out on a great deal. I think that I’ve stumbled upon the shape that this hobby will take once I’ve reached the goal of seeing one of all of the reptiles in the state. That goal is finite, in fact, I am sure I’ll be able to do it within the next few years (except for maybe one or two that in all likelyhood probably don’t actually exist within Arizona), but learning about and observing the variation between each species in different localities will be endless. I’m looking forward to it.

How ironicly exciting that this realization has come with our most common, and most iconic, rattlesnake.


 

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10 Responses to “Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes: Variation, Quantities, & Life Lessons”

  1. Pat Greeley says:

    I would like to have permission to use the photo that is under the pharse “back off”. I think it is a very good picture and I would like to make a flag with it. Please let me know what your terms are.

    Thank you

    Pat Greeley

  2. Bryan says:

    Pat,

    Glad you like it. Email me with the following information, and I’ll give you information on a limited license for your flag.

    – How many flags you’ll be making
    – For what purpose will the flags be used?

    Thanks, my email is bryan@zigbotmedia.com

  3. Pat Greeley says:

    Hi Bryan,
    Sorry I missed your quick response. I guess I didn’t check the followup box. Not sure how many flags and now possibly some Tee Shirts with some clever quotes. I have no idea how well this will work so I don’t know how to put a number on this. Just a guess Maybe 6 flags and 100 Tee shirts.

    Thanks,

    Pat Greeley

    916 628 3948

  4. Tim Smith says:

    I am looking to purchase a baby western diamondback rattlesnake. I was wondering if you could help me in my search

  5. Bryan says:

    If you live outside of Arizona, just look on kingsnake.com for a wide variety of cheap captive born animals. It is illegal to purchase any animal originating from Arizona, including captive born offspring of wild caught animals. If you do live within Arizona, it is illegal for you to purchase one anywhere … but it’s not hard to just go catch one. Are you from AZ? Do you have experience with hots?

  6. Michael says:

    What species were you referring to in your post that may not actually exist in Arizona?

  7. Bryan says:

    I realize that I really worded that poorly. I was referring more to certain locales of animals that seem like they should be there, but are not recorded in any recent history. An example would be our massassaugas being in any grassland other than the tiny patch where they currently live, although other pockets existed elsewhere in the past. Another from that area would be a prairie rattlesnake, which is incredibly common just 20 miles from where I was at, but is not recorded there.

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  9. Jessica Haynes says:

    Hi Bryan!

    Love your passion rattlesnakes!

    My son is working on a 6th-Grade Science, PowerPoint Project on the Western Diamondback…and is curious if he may have your permission to utilize a few of your stunning photos?! In particular the “Baby Rattlesnake” photos in Hidalgo County, NM and Cochise County, AZ; highlighting the prebutton…along with the “Crotalus atrox” in Cochise as well.

    We are originally from Pima County, Arizona and give much appreciation to your incredible dedication to the rattlers!

  10. Randy Hale says:

    I work at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in SW Oklahoma.
    I just caught a western diamondback, at our prairie dog town. I have been after this snake for two years. This snake is massive, but the coloration was what surprised me. It is much darker than I have ever seen. It is a dark chocolate color. I am wondering if
    age influences it’s color? I’ll send pictures.

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