South American Rattlesnake

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Is the South American Rattlesnake right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Neotropical Rattlesnake; Cascabel Rattlesnake; Yucatan Rattlesnake; Víbora de Cascabel

Scientific name: Crotalus durissus ssp.

The basics:
The Mayans venerated the South American Rattlesnake as an earthly representation of various deities, and stone carvings of it, known as Tzabcans, are common in several city ruins. Unlike most rattlesnakes, this species’ powerful venom is neuro-toxic, with its effects often centering on the neck. The local name of “Neck-Breaker” says it all – leave this beautiful, deadly brute to the care of zoos!

Eight subspecies of the South American Rattlesnake range from central Mexico through Central America to Argentina. This and the Urocoan Rattlesnake, (C. vegrandis), are the only rattlesnakes to be found south of Mexico.

This highly-adaptable snake dwells in grasslands, thorn scrub, forest clearings, overgrown fields, and farms.

Appearance / health:
The background color is brown, gray, or olive, and large, diamond-shaped blotches, outlined in tan, line the back. The head and neck are marked with dark, parallel stripes, and the tail is dark brown or black. Adults reach 1-1.5 meters (3-5 ft) in length.

Zoo specimens are generally hardy, and have approached 20 years of age.

Behavior / temperament:
South American Rattlesnakes are notoriously ill-tempered and difficult to work with, and treated with utmost caution by zookeepers.

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 iguanas and other lizards, ground squirrels and other rodents, rabbits, and birds. Zoo specimens fare well on a diet comprised of rats and mice.

The young, 1-30 in number, are born alive in May-June and average 30-35 cm (12-14 in) in length. They consume grasshoppers and other large insects in addition to lizards, nestling birds, and rodents.

Written by Frank Indiviglio


large venomous snake, real medical problem


tropical rattlesnake

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