Rattlesnakes are instantly recognisable with their specialised tails that they vibrate as a warning. Rattlesnakes are well-known across the world, but is there an Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake in Australia? And what are the precautions that can be taken for the species?
What is an Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake?
The Eastern Diamondback is known to be the largest rattlesnake species in the world. And it is also considered the heaviest known venomous snake worldwide. The largest known specimen was shot in 1946, it measured 7.8 feet and weighed about 15.4 kg.
There have been reports of the Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake reaching lengths over 8 feet. However, no specimens that have achieved this size have been studied by science and it is by anecdotal evidence alone.
One scientist in the 1950s offered a reward for those individuals who could produce evidence of an Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake that was more than 2.4 metres long. The reward has never been claimed, though some skin sheds were sent to the scientist that were over 8 ft in length, skins from a snake’s skin can be significantly longer than the snake itself.
Still, at these sizes, the Easter Diamondback would pose a significant risk to humans, if the unfortunate victim was bitten.
Unlike many other species of snakes, males are typically larger than females.
However, other species might rival the snake in size. For example, there is the King Cobra. This species is much more slender than the diamondback rattlesnake but is much longer. There is also the Gaboon viper, which is shorter but much bulkier.
For most comparisons, the snake will reach lengths of between 1.1 and 1.7 metres, and weigh on average 2.3 kg.
The colour pattern of the snake is a typical brown or olive with dark brown to black diamonds on the back. These diamonds have slightly lighter centres. The belly is a typical yellowish or cream, like many other snakes, which then has a diffused, dark mottling along the sides.
The head of most specimens has a dark postocular stripe, which extends from behind the eye backward and down towards the lips.
The famed rattle at the end of the tail is made from hollow segments. These are not permanent on the snake as is commonly believed. Instead, they can break off as required by the snake. When the snake sheds, these are completely replaced.
What do Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes Eat?
This species of rattlesnake has a very specialised diet. In the wild, they are known to eat large invertebrates as well as large mammals and birds. Their typical hunting behaviour is to lie in wait, when the prey gets into striking range, they will bite the prey and then let go. The prey then runs away.
However, as the venom takes hold, the snake will follow the prey, waiting for it to die. Once the prey item has died, the snake can eat at its leisure.
The snake rarely eats lizards or other snakes. They are known to primarily feed on mice and rabbits, though birds and their eggs can form part of their diet. Invertebrates are eaten only by young individuals who need a meal.
Why do Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes Bite Humans?
Snakes are very secretive animals. They don’t like to interact with humans, who they see as predators and a threat. Their first option is to always stay hidden or to run away. However, there are times when snakes might feel cornered by a human, or another predator.
When this happens, snakes are more likely to bite as it is their own defence mechanism. Many venomous snakes can voluntarily inject venom as part of the bite. Some species of snakes will reserve their venom for prey, relying on the sharp pain caused by a bite to deter numerous predators.
However, the Eastern diamondback rattlesnake prefers to inject venom about 75-80% of the time. While that means that between one in five and one in four bites are ‘dry’ or without venom, this is still a significant number of people who are bitten.
Those who are bitten need to seek medical attention immediately. Even those who think they’ve had a dry bite should be monitored for at least 12 if not 24 hours as there might be an infection, reaction, or small amounts of venom still contained in a bite. Those with venom need to take anti-venom immediately.
Are There Rattlesnakes in Australia?
Luckily for those who live in Australia, rattlesnakes are not present. They are native and present only in the Americas. Some rattlesnakes live from Canada down to Argentina, but the majority of species live in Southwestern US and Mexico.
The Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake lives in Florida and a few areas close by. They prefer to live in dry environments.
However, many people think that they can hear the distinctive rattle from the snake. And there is a logical reason for this. There is a spider that can mimic the sound, the Rattlesnake tarantula.
The rattlesnake tarantula uses its fangs in the same way that the eastern diamondback rattlesnake will use its rattle. It uses it as a warning to humans and others to back off, or it might try to bite. Fortunately, for those living in Queensland where the spider lives, this species is not venomous enough to harm a human. The bite is painful, but not fatal.
The spider can also be known under the other common names which include the whistling tarantula or the barking spider.
Final Word: Is there an Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake in Australia?
The Eastern diamondback rattlesnake is an interesting snake with a potentially lethal bite. However, it is also a species that you will not find in Australia. It is a species that is native to just North America. Those who hear the rattle sound in Australia are typically hearing a spider rather than a snake. While these spiders are not venomous, they can still provide a nasty bite.