We humans have a complicated relationship with the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake. Maybe that’s what has led the Center for Biological Diversity to describe what we know to be the largest venomous snake in North America as “misunderstood.”
The rattle king is definitely scary at first glance.
Some weigh up to 10 pounds, and the largest on record, says the University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Lab, was 8 feet long, although average numbers clock in at “only” five-and-a-half pounds and five feet long. Yeah, that’s more comforting. Did we mention that they have long, curved hollow fangs?
In terms of creep factors, the carnivore hunts from a tight coil and can remain motionless for as long as a week while waiting for prey, notes the Center. And when they do move, the Eastern Diamondback can hunt in total darkness using infrared detection.
Keep away indeed. Its venom is a potent hemotoxin that kills red blood cells and causes tissue damage, National Geographic warns. Bites are extremely painful and can be fatal to humans, although antivenom is widely available to maintain a good survival rate for bite victims.
Oh, and they’re also accomplished swimmers.
Okay, scared yet?
Here’s where to find the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, er … to stay away from them.
“Diamondback rattlesnakes are restricted to the Lower Coastal Plain of the Southeast, from southern North Carolina to eastern Louisiana, although the stronghold of their range is in Florida and southern Georgia,” the Savannah Lab reports. “This species usually inhabits dry sandy areas, palmetto or wiregrass flatwoods, pinewoods, coastal dune habitats, or hardwood hammocks. They generally avoid wet areas but sometimes live along the edges of swamps.”
Like all good rattlers, they’ll let you know when they’re P-O’d. Those signature rattles shake furiously as a warning to humans to back off.
But are they aggressive? The numbers show that we as humans are in fact way more dangerous to them.
“Feared as deadly and aggressive, diamondbacks are actually highly averse to human contact and only attack in defense,” says NatGeo. “Most bites occur when humans taunt or try to capture or kill a rattlesnake.”
Yep, sadly these giant venomous reptiles are typically the ones falling victim to us, not the other way around.
“In Alabama and Georgia, the Eastern Diamondback is targeted by hunters who compete for prizes at gruesome ‘rattlesnake roundups,’ where the snakes are exhibited and then slaughtered and sold for their skin and meat,” the Center reports.
It gets worse. The Savannah Lab even says that certain harmful capture methods include pouring gasoline down burrows. And because of the attitude created by a festival atmosphere during these inhumane roundups, wildlife is destroyed.
At this point, the Eastern Diamondback receives no federal protection, even though populations have declined, according to Savannah. The Center adds that U.S. Fish and Wildlife says the snake may warrant a place on the endangered species list and that the Eastern Diamondback is hunted and “maliciously” killed.
“Unlimited numbers of snakes can be killed in South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana,” the Center says.
The good news is that, if left unharmed, these giant rattlers have an average lifespan of up to 20 years in the wild.