Rattlesnake are poisonous snakes that belong to the pit viper group and are recognized by the distinctive rattle on the end of their tail. Most species of rattlers have hemotoxic venom that attacks tissues and destroys them. The Mojave rattlesnake also has a neurotoxin in its venom making it the most dangerous of all the species of rattlesnakes.
Rattlesnakes vary considerably in colour depending on their habitat. In the western states, pinks, greens, rust, and almost black colours have been observed. Rattlesnakes tend to blend well with their background.
Some species are more reactive to threats than others, but most would rather run away than have an encounter with a human. They use heat-sensing pits on their faces to "see" heat images. They track wounded prey by following this heat signature.
Rattlesnakes use their poison to subdue their prey, usually small mammals like rabbits and mice. The venom starts digesting the prey from the inside before the snake even swallows it. Venom is also used defensively when the snake feels threatened. They are able to use as much or as little venom as they wish. Up to 1/3 of bites to humans are dry bites with no venom injected. Treatment involves putting a constriction band around the limb above the bite and getting quickly to a hospital for antivenom treatment.
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First Published: 10th November 2008, Last Updated: 7th November 2019
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