Species group: Rattlesnakes and Other Vipers
Other common names: Eastern Diamondback
Scientific name: Crotalus adamanteus
Largest of the world’s rattlesnakes, the Eastern Diamondback and sports a “take-no-nonsense” attitude. It has long awed snake aficionados, some of whom have felt compelled to collect and keep this increasingly rare creature. However, along with that size and attitude comes a deadly potential – please limit your Diamondback contact to zoos only!
The Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake is found along the lower coastal plain of the southeastern USA, in portions of the states of North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Florida.
It dwells in longleaf pine habitats, palmetto prairies, open pine-oak forest, abandoned farms, and citrus groves, and often shelters in gopher and tortoise burrows.
Appearance / health:
This heavy-bodied snake is olive or brown to nearly black in color. The dorsal surface is patterned with white-centered dark diamonds. The Eastern Diamondback reaches 1 - 1.8 meters (3 - 6 Ft) in length, with a record of just over 2.4 meters (8 Ft).
Zoo specimens are generally hardy and have approached 25 years of age.
Behavior / temperament:
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes remain high strung and difficult to work with despite years in captivity.
It is impossible for a private snake owner to adequately prepare for or treat a venomous snakebite, or, prior to a bite, to arrange for treatment in a hospital.
The natural diet includes pocket gophers, cotton rats, deer mice, opossums, and other mammals, and birds. Zoo specimens fare well on a diet of rats and mice.
Females generally give birth every 2-3 years. The young, 7-29 in number, are born alive in July-October, and measure 30.4 – 38 cm (12-15 in) at birth.
Written by Frank Indiviglio
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Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes for Venom
When fully grown these can be large snakes. But they are not for the uninformed. Like all venomous snakes they can be aggressive... particularly as when in captivity then cannot escape from you, which would be their natural reaction in my wild.
I did my PhD on various blood clotting agents and the venoms of the viperid and crotalid snakes (vipers and rattlesnakes) are fascinating because they contain proteins that initially cause blood clotting and then cause blood thinning. Their natural prey are small rodents which they kill with their venom.
I studied the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake for direct comparison with the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake and what goes for one species basically applies to the other too. Their behaviours and venom properties being nearly identical.
The venom then prevents the food from decaying inside the snake as the snake slowly digests it. This is also why venomous snakes prefer live food and tend to avoid dead animals. It is also why their strike is directed at moving objects. Snakes are fascinating in that though they cannot hear, they can feel vibrations directly through the ground (their ribs are in contact with the ground and it's on their ribs that they move). They also have pits beneath their eyes that detect heat and their tongues touch other pits in the top of their mouths where their scent organs are situated (quite literally, they 'taste' the air). They do most of their hunting using the thermal receptors and, as snakes have been around for billions of years, I think this hunting mechanism is a good reason to believe that even the smallest dinosaurs (which our modern snakes' ancestors would have hunted) were warm-blooded.
I always encountered and interacted these snakes with expert herpetologists and extreme caution. If you knowledge is not sufficient, do not even think of getting one as a pet. Of course, we were handling the snakes for their venom and they knew this, so they were more aggressive than the less frequently handled zoo snakes.
These are prolific breeders and as long as their food is living they do not have any real problems feeding. They are quite spectacular to observe and their threat response; the flattening of the heat and raising of the 'rattle' (this is a modified portion of the snake's backbone) to shake vigourously is truly fascinating to watch.
I will freely admit though, that if they had not been an important part of my research I really would not have gone anywhere near these creatures. They are best kept to their natural environments, where their natural behaviour is to try and escape from any threats. Lucky I was never bitten when working with venomous snakes. Still, in the lab I worked in someone was struck most weeks and supplies of antivennin were always on standby.
Keep venomous snakes and you are likely to be bitten at some point. Leave these beautiful creatures to the wild and to real experts..
From DLlE Sep 25 2012 11:10AM