Species group: Rattlesnakes and Other Vipers
Other common names: Neotropical Rattlesnake; Cascabel Rattlesnake; Yucatan Rattlesnake; Víbora de Cascabel
Scientific name: Crotalus durissus ssp.
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
Nicknamed the "Neckbreaker" - Enough Said!
This stout, high-strung viper is locally called “the neck-breaker”, because it’s largely neurotoxic venom (in contrast to most other rattlesnakes) quickly paralyzes the neck muscles, causing the head to droop. It has been responsible for many fatalities throughout its huge range.
South American rattlesnakes are impressive in size and variable in color and pattern – many that I’ve kept in zoos differed so much as to appear to be of another species. Although they are very interesting, these and other rattlesnakes should never be kept in private collections.
I’ve had the good fortune to work with this and related species in zoos for decades but feel strongly that they should never be kept in private collections. It is impossible for a private snake owner to adequately prepare for or treat a venomous snakebite. Viper venom is far more complex than was once believed. Haemotoxins, which damage blood cells, blood vessels and body tissues, predominate in most that have been studied. However, all have neurotoxic components as well, along with the enzyme Hyaluronidase, which speeds venom diffusion.
Various rattlesnakes are kept by many zoos – please limit your viper “interactions” to zoo visits, or prepare for a career as a professional zookeeper or herpetologist if you have a serious interest in venomous snakes..
From findiviglio Jan 23 2016 12:41PM