RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas — Rattlesnakes are among the most feared and fascinating creatures of the chaparral. Outdoor Reporter Richard Moore reveals some intriguing traits of these intimidating serpents.
It is a chilling sound like no other in nature. The agitated buzzing of a Diamondback rattlesnake conveys a deadly warning…”don’t tread on me.”
Diamondback rattlesnakes are the most common venomous snake in Texas, and if you spend enough time in the wildlands an occasional encounter is inevitable.
The black forked tongue flicks ominously, as the imposing snake “tastes” the air. Their tongue gathers scent particles and then retracts, delivering them to the Jacobsen’s organ in the roof of the mouth.
Diamondbacks are pit vipers and just beneath each eye are heat sensitive receptors that enable rattlers to locate their prey, even in total darkness.
Envenomation can be deadly, and the complex venom of Diamondbacks is both neurotoxic and hemotoxic, causing extensive swelling and tissue damage. Less than ten percent of those bitten die when treated properly with anti-venom, and the top recommendation is to get to a hospital as quickly as possible.
In the United States annually snakes bite an estimated 8,000 people, and in an average year there are five deaths.
The majority of snakebites occur when the serpents are handled. The best advice is to avoid them and chances are they will not harm you.
There are some impressive snakes slithering along the sandy soil of deep South Texas, and the record Diamondback is reported to have topped seven feet in length.
Since dry tail slim does not always offer a courtesy rattle, it is best to watch your step in the South Texas outdoors.
And, with all the rattlers I have encountered, I can’t help but wonder how many I walked right by and never even saw.