Physical Description

  • Heavy-bodied snake with a distinctive triangular-shaped head.
  • Has two dark diagonal lines running from its eyes to its jaws.
  • They have two long tubular fangs, characteristic of venomous snakes.
  • Dark diamond-shaped patterns along its back (hence its name).
  • The tail has black and white striped bands just above the terminal rattle.
  • Diamondbacks are normally 3-5 feet in length but can be up to 7 feet long.


  • California, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and northern Mexico.


  • Live in grasslands, deserts, forests, rocky hillsides, and areas along the coast.
  • Live in elevation from sea level to 6500 feet.


  • Rattlesnakes are sexually mature at 3 years old.
  • Mating occurs in early spring after they emerge from hibernation.
  • Gestation lasts for 167 days before the mother gives birth to 10-20 live young.
  • Rattlesnake babies are developed inside a thin egg membrane inside their mother. They pierce the membrane just before birth and are born alive.
  • The young only stay with their mother for a few hours to a day before venturing out on their own.


  • Mice, rats, rabbits, gophers, ground-dwelling birds, and lizards.


  • Eagles, hawks, roadrunners, kingsnakes, coyotes, bobcats, and foxes eat diamondback rattlesnakes for food.
  • Cows, deer, horse, and antelope do not eat rattlesnakes but see them as a threat and try to trample them.

Interesting Facts

  • Diamondbacks are pit vipers, meaning they have heat-sensing pits behind their nostrils that allow them to detect differences in temperature, sometimes down to a fraction of a degree. These differences in temperature help them determine predators from prey!
  • Diamondbacks can shake their rattles back and forth at a rate of 60 or more times per second.
  • Every time a rattlesnake sheds, they add a new segment to their rattle.

Sources: Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum; Washington Nature Mapping Program

Photo: Matthew Meier

If you hear this noise on a trail, immediately stop and look around! There’s a western diamondback rattlesnake somewhere near you!