Baby Rattlesnakes: 5 Amazing Facts & 5 Pictures

Written by Sadie Dunlap
Updated: October 12, 2023
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The baby rattlesnake is very dangerous! They do not have the notorious rattle and they are very defensive. This combination doesn’t end well for some who cross their paths. 

They start small but some grow into quite large snakes that can prove to be quite treacherous. Did you know baby rattlesnakes’ rattles are made of keratin, just like human nails? How about that you cannot tell how old they are by the number of segments on their rattles?

Come along to learn more about these facts and more!

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#1: A Baby Rattlesnake is Called a Snakelet

Massasauga on a rock

A juvenile western Massasauga rattlesnake from northern Missouri. Massasaugas have colors and markings that include tan, gray, or brown with dark brown or black splotches.

©Rusty Dodson/

Baby rattlesnakes are called a snakelets!

Unlike many baby animals, the baby rattlesnake doesn’t have a specific name for its young. However, all baby snakes are called snakelets. A group of adult rattlesnakes is called a rhumba and a group of babies is called a pit or a nest of snakelets. 

#2: Rattlesnake Snakelets Can’t “Rattle”

baby rattlesnake birth

Rattlesnakes are born with a pre-button that goes away with their first shed.


Baby rattlesnakes are born with a small, rounded tip on the end of their tail called a pre button. This pre-button is the first sign of the tiny snake’s rattle, but it only lasts for a few days. Once the baby rattler sheds for the first time, the pre-button sheds as well to reveal the first segment of the snakelet’s rattle. 

However, before a young rattlesnake can use his rattle to make noise, he must grow at least one more rattle segment. This is because their rattles are made of keratin. When rattlers vibrate their tail section, the segments knock together, creating the ominous buzzing sound of a rattlesnake’s tail. Rattlesnake babies can begin rattling upon their second shed, which reveals their second tail segment.

As a snakelet grows, it continues to add segments to its rattle with each shed. However, it’s rare to see a rattlesnake with more than eight to nine segments since these segments are not permanent. In fact, with each new rattle at the tip of the tail, the furthermost (and oldest) rattles are constantly being pushed away. Some rattlesnakes with damaged or lost rattle matrixes will never grow a rattle at all!

#3: Rattlesnakes Babies Get a Bad Rap

baby rattlesnake portrait

Rattlesnake snakelets aren’t as dangerous as you might think.

©Alexander Wong/

“Timid” and “laid back” are probably not the first two words that come to mind when you think of baby rattlesnakes. However, the tiny rattlers prefer to shy away from humans and rarely attack when unprovoked.

Another common misconception about baby rattlesnakes is that they are more dangerous than their adult counterparts. Some believe that young rattlesnakes produce more venom and that they don’t warn before they bite. The truth is that baby rattlesnake bites contain less venom than adults. Their size and inability to rattle make them harder to spot, but even adult rattlesnakes don’t always warn before they bite. 

#4: About One Quarter of All Rattlesnake Species Live in Arizona 

young crotalus cerberus

Young Arizona black rattlesnakes have a distinct pattern and dark stripes on the side of their head.

©Evelyn D. Harrison/

There are nearly 60 species of rattlesnakes and 14 of them live in the state of Arizona. Arizona is home to more rattlesnakes than any other state in the U.S., with 14 species of rattlesnake calling The Grand Canyon State their home. 

Arizona takes its snake population seriously. There are four species that get special protection from the Arizona Game and Fish Department:

  • Ridge-Nosed Rattlesnake
  • Massasauga Rattlesnake
  • Rock Rattlesnake
  • Twin-Spotted Rattlesnake. 

Arizona is even home to the well-known Western Diamondback Rattlesnake, which is the largest species in the West of the United States. These giant snakes can grow to be over six feet long and have live births of up to 20 babies! 

#5: Baby Rattlesnakes Only Eat Once a Week

baby rattlesnake coiled

Baby rattlesnakes love to eat frogs and other small animals.

©Alexander Wong/

Rattlesnake snakelets don’t depend on their mothers to feed them as newborns. For the first week of their lives, they begin to learn how to hunt and eat small insects and other small animals. After that, they enjoy a diet of small frogs, fish, and even the eggs of other animals! 

Rattlesnakes don’t need much food to survive and often only eat about once a week. They can even survive anywhere from three to six months without a meal at all!

What U.S. Rattlesnake Species Are the Most Dangerous?

Rattlesnakes are among the most deadly venomous snakes in the U.S. But their bites vary in toxicity, so it’s a good idea to be educated on what rattlesnakes are the most dangerous.

Mojave Green Rattlesnake

Some experts classify the Mojave green rattlesnake as the deadliest rattlesnake species in the United States.


Many experts classify the Mojave green rattlesnake, native to the Southwestern U.S. as well as Mexico, as the deadliest rattlesnake species on Earth. Its venom, which can be either hemotoxic or neurotoxic, can cause symptoms like vision impairment, difficulty swallowing and breathing, muscle weakness, severe body pain, convulsions, and death by cardiac arrest or respiratory failure if left untreated.

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake

Large eastern diamondback rattlesnake

The Eastern diamondback rattlesnake is responsible for the most deaths in the U.S. from snake bites.

©Chase D’animulls/

This rattler, found in the Eastern United States, is another contender for the deadliest rattlesnake in the United States. It’s also one of the largest snakes in the U.S., growing to a max length of 8.5 feet and max weight of 34 pounds. Its bite contains hemotoxic venom, capable of killing red blood cells and causing tissue damage. Another problem lies in the fact it can deliver 400-700 mg of venom in its bite, compared to 200-300 mg in the western diamondback rattlesnake, so its venom can lead to death. It’s believed that the Eastern diamondback rattlesnake is responsible for the most deaths by snakebite in the U.S.

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

Snake, Fang, Rattlesnake, Poisonous, Aggression Snake, Fang, Rattlesnake, Poisonous, Aggression

The venom from a Western diamondback rattlesnake is hemotoxic, attacking red blood cells and causing tissue damage to bite victims.


Close on the heels of the Eastern variety is the Western diamondback rattlesnake, native to the U.S. Southwest and northern Mexico. Its venom is hemotoxic, killing cells and tissue, causing blood clotting (or preventing clotting) that can result in massive internal bleeding, and causing possible cardiovascular failure. Some experts think this type of rattlesnake actually outranks the Eastern diamondback in terms of overall deaths to humans.

Other deadly U.S. rattlesnake species include:

  • Timber Rattlesnake
  • Massasauga Rattlesnake
  • Southern Pacific Rattlesnake
  • Banded Rock Rattlesnake
  • Desert Massasauga Rattlesnake

The photo featured at the top of this post is © William L. Farr / CC BY-SA 4.0 – License / Original

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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What are baby rattlesnakes called?

Baby rattlesnakes are called snakelets. A group of baby rattlesnakes is called a pit or nest of snakes. 

How much do baby rattlesnakes weigh?

At birth, baby rattlesnakes are about 6 inches to a foot long and weigh around a third of a pound. 

What do baby rattlesnakes eat?

Rattlesnakes are predators who feast on live prey. A newborn baby rattlesnake spends its first week of life eating small insects. Then, they enjoy a diet of small rodents, lizards, frogs, and other tiny animals. As adults, these snakes like to munch on squirrels, rabbits, rodents, sometimes even birds!

Where do baby rattlesnakes live?

Where a baby rattlesnake lives just depends on what the climate is like in their area. Those in cooler areas will have to hibernate for the coldest season and they tend to share the same dens, generation after generation. Those in warmer climates will nest in dens and other areas like crevices in rocks and holes in the ground. They can swim but prefer to pick places that help them stay dry and safe while they’re vulnerable.

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