We all know that rattlesnakes are not the most friendly of animals (or even of all snakes for that matter), so when we hear that rattle go off, we’re far more likely to take flight than fight. Maybe that’s why we don’t know much about rattlesnakes, or what makes them tick (forgive the pun). Wikipedia gathered some insight into what makes these mysterious creatures’ rattles work the way they do:
“The rattle is composed of a series of hollow, interlocked segments made of keratin, which are created by modifying the scales that cover the tip of the tail. The contraction of special “shaker” muscles in the tail causes these segments to vibrate against one another, making the rattling noise (which is amplified because the segments are hollow)”
Some snakes use their tails to suffocate prey, so it makes sense that the tail is the “stay away” signal for rattlesnakes as well. Certain animals use brightly-colored skin to warn potential predators that they’re poisonous or dangerous, but the rattlesnake’s light brown and white molt doesn’t really leave much room open for that option.
Interestingly enough, these snakes are considered the most evolved and “newest” snakes in the world, according to Live Science. Their hiss is also considered a big warning sign, so it’s best to stay away from them if you hear it because they are venomous, and most snakes can move faster than they may indicate through their everyday movements. The adult snakes are also very big, ranging from 1.6 to 6.6 feet long, but some can be even bigger and weigh in at 8.2 feet in length.
There are dozens upon dozens of rattlesnake breeds, too. Some of them blend easily into desert terrain due to their light brown and white colors, but others like the Timber Rattlesnake would stick out more due to their yellow and black skin. The Arizona-Sonoma Desert Museum website notes that the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake likes to gobble on mice, rats, gopher, and other such small animals. The site also mentions that deer and antelope sometimes try to trample these guys since they see the rattlesnakes as threats.
Although the size of this South Texas Monster Rattler is up for debate, what’s the biggest rattlesnake you’ve seen pic.twitter.com/kIS6LCg9nz
— Mike (@mike_58stingray) March 31, 2016
Rattlesnakes can be quite scary, but the good news is (like a lot of animals) that they tend to leave humans alone unless provoked. It’s doubtful rattlesnakes are scared of us, perhaps just not as interested in us as we are in them. Still, it’s best to take the warning signs seriously and know when to back off, because the rattlesnake’s bite can cause a lot of symptoms, including accelerated heart beat, numbness, and a feeling of weakness.
The USDA found that rattlesnakes most commonly bite humans when being handled by them, or when they are accidentally stepped on during hikes (you wouldn’t like it, either!). One of the best things you can do is give the rattlesnake some space, because they will usually flee if there’s room to do so. In general, keeping away from rattlesnakes is probably the safest way to avoid being bitten. If you are bitten, you can try washing your hands with soap and water, as well as keeping any affected areas from moving. It’s also a good idea to remove any rings or other types of jewelry from a bitten area, because these can constrict swelling.
It’s also best to get to the nearest hospital as quickly as you can, but don’t drive or run too fast because this could put you at risk of an increased heart rate. If possible, you can also use a suction device from a snake bite kit to suck out the venom. It’s not a good idea to do this with your mouth, though, because poison can enter the bloodstream this way.
[Image Via Pixabay]