Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake

Scientific Name: Crotalus adamanteus

Description

Eastern diamondbacks are the largest of the rattlesnakes, and in fact, are some of the largest venomous snakes in the world. They are capable of reaching more than 8 feet and can weigh as much as 30 pounds. Adults average much smaller than that, however, and diamondbacks over 6-feet long are rare today.

Although diamondbacks are potentially very dangerous, and awe inspiring, to meet in the wild, they are shy and retiring snakes that try to avoid contact with humans and other large predators. Rattlesnakes are pit vipers, a group of snakes that have special thermal receptors on the front of their faces that allow them to see images in infrared, even in total darkness. As adults, diamondbacks feed on rats, squirrels and rabbits.

Range

The historical range of eastern diamondbacks included the coastal lowlands and long-leaf pine forests of the southeastern U.S. extending from North Carolina to the Florida Keys and west to Louisiana. Today however, their range has been greatly reduced.

Status in the Wild

Once fairly common, populations of eastern diamondbacks have declined dramatically. They are no longer found in Louisiana and are considered an endangered species in North Carolina, the only state to afford them legal protection. Over the rest of their range, diamondbacks have suffered from habitat destruction due to coastal development, agriculture and changes in forestry practices, as well as rattlesnake round-ups and indiscriminate killing. They appear to be extirpated from large areas of their former range where they were once abundant.

Riverbanks is helping the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources conduct research on diamondback populations in this state. The goal is to attempt to learn enough about the biology and natural history of these snakes to allow us to manage the remaining populations, and prevent us from losing a part of our natural heritage, and a potentially important component of the long-leaf pine ecosystem.

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