No other creature in the Southwest inspires such fear and dread as the rattlesnake. Even animals brought over from other countries instinctively react to the warning rattle of this deadly snake. However, rattlesnakes are actually shy creatures and spend most of the winter months hibernating, even in the warmer deserts of the Southwest. So you have to look hard to find them, unless you look in the least likely of place. Hidden away in Albuquerque’s Historic Old Town, the American International Rattlesnake Museum boasts the largest collection of live rattlesnakes in the world. It’s proprietor, Bob Myers, grew up in the Southwest, and like most little boys, he had a fascination for slithering things — a hobby which eventually led to establishing the museum. The museum is a wonderful way for your family to explore the world of rattlesnakes in safety.
The majority of the snakes in the museum have come from zoos across the United States, but the museum exhibits species from all over world. The American International Rattlesnake Museum hosts more different species than the Bronx Zoo, the Philadelphia Zoo, the National Zoo, the Denver Zoo, the San Francisco Zoo, and the San Diego Zoo, all combined! Rattlesnakes are actually found in all but 4 states. Those without rattlesnakes are Hawaii, Alaska, Maine and Delaware.
Rattlesnakes, copperheads and cottonmouths are all pit vipers. Pit Vipers are snakes with two pits under their nostrils to detect heat, thus enabling the rattlesnake to hunt warm-blooded prey. The pits are so sensitive that the snake can determine the size of the warm-blooded animal and can even detect prey in complete darkness.
The deadly rattling sound is produced from a loose collection of skin formed after the snake sheds its skin. Each time it sheds, a new segment is added to the rattle. Rattlesnakes shed their skin 2 – 4 times each year. Very old rattle segments will wither and drop off eventually, so you can’t really tell a rattlers age by the number of rattles. The rattle is a warning that you are treading too close for the snake’s comfort. Its bite is a defensive mechanism as the snake attempts to protect itself and its territory. It’s not an aggressive creature and will only react if cornered or suddenly disturbed. Most snake bites happen to people attempting to capture one, or to snake handlers who become careless.
Nearly all rattlesnakes have relatively weak venoms when compared to the world’s true vipers and cobras. However, Western Diamondbacks, the most common species found in the Four Corners states, can strike to one-third of their body length and their bite is worrisome because it can deliver a huge load of venom. However, once the snake bites you, their venom can run out. When that happens, some wildlife experts have witnessed rattlesnake being harassed by every creature in the area. Pretty much every critter out there is afraid of these shy creatures and won’t think twice about picking on a dry snake.
Each year, roughly 8,000 people in the United States are bitten by venomous snakes. On average, only 12 of those victims die. A rattlesnake bite hurts like crazy, and does require anti-venom treatment to alleviate the symptoms. Strangely enough, animals have a greater resistance to the toxin. For instance, if a dog is bitten on the snout by a rattler, the dog is likely to live, although its nose will swell up like a balloon. Incidentally, there are pet anti-venoms, so you should definitely take your pets to a qualified veterinarian immediately just to be safe.
While some types of snakes lay eggs, rattlesnakes give birth to live babies. The snake actually does have eggs, but they are carried and then hatch inside the body of the female (a 90-day gestation period). Then the female gives live birth to her young. The average lifespan of a rattlesnake is 20 to 30 years in captivity. In the wild, the lifespan is less due to predation, disease or death by accident.
- Rattlesnakes are deaf and feel vibrations to detect prey or nearby danger
- The most dangerous species of rattlesnake in the U.S. is the Mojave Rattlesnake
- The least toxic rattlesnake is the Sidewinder.
- Rattlesnakes control rodent-born diseases by consuming the diseases animals.
- The longest rattlesnake ever recorded was 8 feet 1 inch long.
American International Rattlesnake Museum
202 San Felipe NW, Suite A
Albuquerque, NM 87104-1426