Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox)
The Western diamondback rattlesnake isn't too picky about where it lives: it can be found in deserts, grassy plains, forests, rocky hillsides and areas along the coast, at elevations up to 6500 feet (2000m) from central Arkansas to southeastern California, and the northern half of Mexico. It’s a heavy bodied snake with a distinctive triangular-shaped head; they usually reach about 4 feet long. There are two dark diagonal lines on each side of its face from the eyes to its jaws. It has dark diamond-shaped patterns along is back. The tail has black and white bands just above the rattles.
Diamondback rattlesnakes will often spend daytime hours coiled in the shade of low-growing shrubs, piles of natural or artificial debris, or rocks, but they will sometimes be found sunning themselves in the open and on hiking trails. They will also utilize underground burrows of other animals. In the winter, rattlesnakes retreat into caves or similar places to hibernate.
In the United States, about 800 rattlesnake bites are reported annually. While seldom fatal, bites are extremely painful and can lead to medical trauma. It is important to never handle rattlesnakes, not even dead ones. Dead rattlesnakes can bite via reflex action for an hour after death.
In the wild, rattlesnakes should be left alone as they present little potential hazard. However, rattlesnakes around the home or garden are not acceptable to most people. Fortunately, there are ways to minimize the potential hazards.
Western Diamond Rattlesnake Detection
Snake populations may fluctuate from year to year, depending on the availability of prey (among other things). Some animals, such as peacocks, turkeys, and dogs, can be good sentinels for detecting rattlesnakes. If your dog behaves in an unusual manner, such as excessively barking or whining, it would be wise to investigate for the presence of a snake. A veterinarian should immediately attend to dogs or domestic animals bitten by a rattlesnake.
If you have a snake-proof fence, be sure to check it for holes, gaps, or other damage prior to the time when snakes become active in the late winter or early spring.
Remember that keeping the rodent population in and around your yard under control is an excellent way to discourage snakes of all kinds.
Habitat Modification: Western Diamondback Rattlesnake Exclusion
One of the best ways to keep rattlesnakes away from gardens and homes is to remove suitable hiding places.
• Heavy brush, tall grass, rocks, logs, rotten stumps, lumber piles, and other places of cover should be cleaned up. Keep weeds mowed close to the ground or remove them completely.
• Since snakes often come to an area in search of prey, eliminate rodent populations, especially ground squirrels, meadow voles, deer mice, rats, and house mice.
• Rattlesnakes cannot dig burrows, but frequently use those dug by voles or moles. After controlling the rodents, fill in all burrows with soil or sod and pack down firmly.
Measures to keep rattlesnakes out of houses and buildings are very similar to those for keeping out rodents, too.
• Rattlesnakes may seek refuge beneath buildings; check foundations for gaps or cracks. In summer, rattlesnakes may be attracted to cool and/or damp places, such as beneath buildings and in basements.
• Sealing all cracks and other openings greater than 1/4 inch can prevent them from entering.
• Gaps beneath garage doors are often large enough to permit snakes to enter, especially young ones.
• Access doors on crawl spaces should be inspected carefully for breaks or gaps. Of course, use caution if you must crawl under a house or other building.
• Repair all gaps or tears in screens. Check where utility and cable lines enter the home for gaps or holes.
• Hot tub or swimming pool pump enclosures may provide cover if they are not well sealed. Ornamental water fountains, pools, and fish ponds may also attract diamondback rattlesnakes.
How to get rid of rattlesnakes? What about Snake Fences
Rattlesnakes can be excluded from an area by installing a snake-proof fence. Make sure the gates are tight fitting, and keep vegetation and debris from collecting around the fence. Snakes can climb accumulated vegetation and gain access to the top of the fence. Check the fence frequently to be sure it has not been damaged or torn in any way.
Over the years various home remedies have been suggested to repel snakes, such as placing a horsehair rope around your sleeping bag or sprinkling sulfur dust or scattering mothballs around the area to be protected. Unfortunately, none of these work. Despite what you may hear, there are no plants or ultrasonic devices that repel snakes. Currently several commercially available chemical snake repellents are on the market, but they have not proven to be sufficiently effective to warrant recommendation.
Remember, if left alone, a snake is likely to move on to another area. Rattlesnakes are capable of striking quickly, so caution is important. Most rattlesnake bites occur when inexperienced people try to pick up or move a rattlesnake.
If you don’t want to kill the snake yet want it removed, it is best to call a professional pest or wildlife control operator who specializes in snake removal. Look to the left for experienced snake removal technicians today, and gain peace of mind.