What are rattlesnakes and their effect on the environment?
We always think rattlesnakes are those mean snakes that kill people. The truth is, they’re not. Yes, they do have a deadly bite, but it’s for defense, and they have to eat, too. They keep the rats and mice population down, live in lots of different areas, and are very interesting. Rattlesnakes are classified as Class: Reptilia, Order: Squamata, Suborder: Serpentes, Family: Pit Vipers.
Rattlesnakes live in lots of different areas. They live in dry, open, rocky areas. They like rocks to protect them from predators like the California King Snake. Rattlesnakes can be found in prairies, deserts, forests, swamplands, and plains. They also like dry brush and range from Southwestern Canada to Central Argentina. Rattlesnakes can live at sea level to 11,000 feet. Thirteen different species live in Arizona alone. Burrows and dens are their favorite places to live. When the temperature drops below 40 degrees, they hibernate. They aren’t super picky about where the live but do not live in the water. Western Diamondbacks have the biggest range.
Though their lifespan in the wild is unknown, in captivity, they live 15 to 20 years. In the wild, they live less due to diseases, people taking their habitat, and predators. It takes 167 days till little snakes are born. They can give live birth to 10 to 20 babies. Females carry eggs in their bodies. The birthing process takes 3-5 hours. They will stay with their mom for a couple hours, but then slither off. Most are killed by predators in the first week. After about 3 years, the female rattlesnake can mate and give birth. There are 30 species of rattlesnakes.
Rattlesnakes eat many different animals. They eat small rodents, ground squirrels, mice, rabbits, gophers, ground dwelling birds, small lizards, unguarded bird eggs, prairie dogs, and chipmunks. They can strike in five-tenths of a second, and their venom paralyzes their prey. The Timber Rattlesnake waits till their prey is dead and then eats it. Digestion will take many days. Usually, adults eat every 2 weeks. Younger ones will eat once a week. They are slow and sluggish after they eat, just like my dad. Ambushing usually occurs at dusk. Did you know they eat 85% mammals. Only 10% of their diet is birds, and 5% reptiles.
Without rattlesnakes, there would be mice and rats up to our knees. Rats and mice eat food, destroy crops, and carry diseases.
If you are bit, the venom will damage your tissue and blood cells. This is same with dogs and most other animals. Hemotoxic elements can cause this. Death usually occurs after 48 hours of the bite. Although death is very rare, it can still happen. If the bite is treated two hours or less after the bite, you have 99% chance of living.
Rattlesnakes are very valuable to the environment and are a big part of the ecosystem. They keep the rats and mice down and live in lots of different areas. Rattlesnakes are super cool and misunderstood.