Discover the Largest Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake Ever Recorded!

Written by Jennifer Gaeng
Updated: November 2, 2022
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Key Points

  • Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes are found primarily in the southeastern U.S.
  • These snakes are the largest of the rattlesnakes.
  • Along with many other species, eastern diamondbacks face endangerment due to loss of habitat and human encroachment.

The Eastern diamondback rattlesnake is a deadly pit viper belonging to the family Viperidae. Compared to other large rattlesnakes, this one takes the lead in terms of size. This particular species, which is located solely in the southern United States, is the largest venomous rattlesnake in the world! Adults are approximately four to five feet in length, weighing between four and five pounds. Larger Eastern Diamondback rattlesnakes can easily grow to be six feet long and weigh more than 15 pounds! But how big is the largest giant Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake ever recorded? You might be surprised. Let’s find out!

Largest Giant Eastern Diamondback Rattler Ever Recorded

Large eastern diamondback rattlesnake
Eastern diamondback rattlesnake is the world’s largest rattlesnake.

©Chase D’animulls/Shutterstock.com

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As far as length and weight go, the longest and heaviest giant eastern diamondback rattlesnake ever caught was in 1946, when it was 7.9 feet long and weighed 15.4 kilograms (34 pounds). Lengths of 2.4 meters (8 feet) and 2.5 meters (8.25 feet) have since been recorded, but they are not as well documented (no weights were reported). Regardless, it is clear why this is the world’s largest rattlesnake. As if its potent venom wasn’t enough, its sheer size is enough to terrify you!

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake

baby eastern diamondback rattler
Eastern diamondbacks hunt small mammals and birds.

©Chase D’animulls/Shutterstock.com

Appearance

The eastern diamondback rattlesnake has an average of 29 rows of dorsal scales in the middle of its body. The base color is brown to brownish-yellow, brownish-gray, or olive, and the diamonds are dark brown to black, with centers that are slightly lighter in color. Scales of cream or gold outline the diamond-shaped dots. Within this tail, you’ll find a few bands of diamond-shaped crossbands. Yellowish in color, the belly has scattered black mottling on both sides. An expanding, backward-and-downward black stripe goes from the eye to the lower lip of the skull.

Habitat

In the southeastern United States, the giant eastern diamondback rattlesnake can be found throughout the region, from southeastern North Carolina to the Florida Keys and west along the Gulf Coast from southern Alabama to southeastern Louisiana. It can also be found in the Caribbean region. In their natural environment, eastern Diamondback rattlesnakes can be found in a range of settings, including pine forests, flat woods, sandhills, and, during dry times, wet prairies. Throughout the summer and winter, they make use of gopher and gopher tortoise burrows in a variety of habitats.

Diet

Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes hunt small mammals and birds when foraging or lying in wait for prey. Its sheer size makes it easy to eat a cottontail rabbit. Most Florida diamondbacks feed on eastern cottontails and marsh rabbits. Many eat quail, towhees, and other migratory birds. Big bugs are also eaten by this giant creature.

Danger

In North America, the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake is known as the deadliest venomous snake. Despite its size and strength, it is rarely hostile. It possesses the largest fangs of any rattlesnake species when viewed in relation to its size. As a reference, the teeth of a 5-foot-long specimen measured 17 mm (2/3 in) long. To preserve its venom glands, each snake’s long, curved, and hollowed fangs fold inside its mouth. Predators must reach within striking distance for it to strike; therefore, it waits in an immovable coil until they do. Like all pit vipers, this snake can hunt in full darkness and identify its prey by detecting the heat of its body.

In general, the venom is strongly necrotizing and might cause acute discomfort and profound, transitory hypotension. It is rare for patients to experience clinically substantial bleeding. Despite this, the venom has significant hemorrhagic activity. One venomous bite from the Eastern Diamondback can prove fatal in rare cases. Therefore, you should seek immediate medical attention if you are bitten by one.

Is the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake the Same as the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake?

coiled western diamondback rattlesnake
Western diamondback rattlesnakes are lighter in color than their eastern counterparts.

©Audrey Snider-Bell/Shutterstock.com

No, the eastern diamondback is not the western diamondback. The western diamondback rattlesnake, or Crotalus atrox, is found from central Oklahoma to the western two-thirds of Texas, west to the southeastern border of California, and south to Mexico. Western diamondbacks are second in size only to the eastern diamondback rattlesnake. It is Texas’s largest venomous snake.

Adult Western Diamondbacks can grow up to seven feet long, although the average is far smaller. Most reach a maximum length of four to five feet. The western diamondback has a similar diamond dorsal pattern to the Eastern Diamondback, although it is much lighter. Habitat-dependent hues range from light tan to crimson.

Look-Alikes

Adaptation of snakes is quite amazing. Many nonvenomous species have evolved to resemble those that are venomous in order to ward off predators. For example, bullsnakes have taken on coloration and characteristics of the eastern diamondback rattlesnake, even though these are a nonvenomous species. Gopher snakes also have a diamond-shaped marking on their backs so that they resemble diamondbacks.

In Conclusion

eastern diamondback rattlesnake curled up in grass
The eastern diamondback rattlesnake was a symbol on one of the first flags of the United States.

©iStock.com/NajaShots

It is unfortunate how the loss and degradation of its native habitats are harming the eastern diamondback. Like most venomous snakes, eastern diamondback rattlesnakes appear to be declining due to a combination of habitat loss and strong human harassment. Although it is formidable and capable of employing a wide range of clever techniques to kill its victims, it poses little threat to humans. If you see one of these snakes in the wild, don’t think you need to kill it. Keep your distance and move slowly away from it. Do not ever attempt to approach or handle the snake. This is most often how people get bitten!

Up Next…

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About the Author

A substantial part of my life has been spent as a writer and artist, with great respect to observing nature with an analytical and metaphysical eye. Upon close investigation, the natural world exposes truths far beyond the obvious. For me, the source of all that we are is embodied in our planet; and the process of writing and creating art around this topic is an attempt to communicate its wonders.

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