Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake

Scientific Name
Crotalus adamanteus
Also Known As
Eastern Diamond-backed Rattlesnake
Range
All of Florida
Diet
Small Mammals, Birds, Snakes, Insects
Life Expectancy
10 Years
The eastern diamondback rattlesnake

Photo 63666236 (c) Ty Sharrow, CC BY-NC

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake conservation status - Vulnerable

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This Snake is Venomous

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes in Central Florida

The eastern diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus) is a venomous pit viper species found throughout the southeastern United States, including the central Florida region. This impressive snake is the largest rattlesnake in the world, capable of reaching over 8 feet (2.4 m) in length.

Eastern diamondbacks thrive in the warm, humid environment of central Florida and can be encountered in sandy pinewoods, scrub, palmetto flatwoods and swamps. Read on to learn identification tips, biology, behavior, diet, health risks, and prevention methods for eastern diamondback rattlesnakes in central Florida.

Appearance and Identification

The eastern diamondback rattlesnake can be identified by the following characteristics

Adult eastern diamondback rattlesnake

Photo 176005249 © Matt Cohen and Elizabeth Hargrave, CC BY-NC

Adult Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake

  • Size: Adults can reach over 8 feet (2.4 m) long and weigh up to 15 pounds (6.8 kg). The average is 4 to 6 feet (1.2 to 1.8 m).
  • Color: Base color ranges from yellowish, tan, brown to almost black. Pronounced dark brown or black diamonds run the length of the back outlined with lighter coloring.
  • Head: Triangular head distinct from the neck with horns or supraocular scales above the eyes. Heat-sensing facial pits present.
  • Rattle: Loud, buzzing rattle made of interlocked hollow segments at the end of the tail. Adds 1-2 new segments when shed each time.
eastern diamondback rattlesnake

Photo 174320289 © Tommy Hamrick, CC BY-NC

Juvenile Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake

  • Size: Newborns average 14 to 22 inches (35 to 55 cm) long and weigh 4 to 7 ounces (110 to 200 grams).
  • Color: They have the distinctive diamond-shaped dorsal blotches, though more grayish in juveniles. The tail has a well-defined black and white banded pattern.
  • Head: The head has two light lines on the face and a dark postocular stripe behind each eye.
  • Rattle: Juveniles have a small button-like pre-rattle at the end of the tail that makes a faint buzzing sound when vibrated.

The eastern diamondback can be distinguished from other rattlesnake species in Florida like the pygmy rattlesnake, dusky pigmy rattlesnake, and timber rattlesnake based on size, color patterns, scales, facial characteristics, and rattle features.

It is much larger than pygmy and dusky pygmy rattlesnakes, reaching over 8 feet long compared to their 2-3 foot maximum size. It has distinctive diamond-shaped dorsal blotches outlined in lighter colors, while pygmy rattlesnakes have a solid dorsal stripe. The eastern diamondback’s triangular head is also larger than other species, and its rattle produces a notably louder buzzing sound used for signaling.

Maturation Rate

Newborn eastern diamondbacks average 14-22 inches long. By their first year, they reach 2 feet (60 cm) long and attain 3 feet (around 1 meter) by age two. Maximum size is achieved by 4-5 years old in males and 7-8 years old in females. After reaching adulthood, eastern diamondbacks grow about 4 inches (10 cm) per year up until maximum length.

Habits and Behavior

Eastern diamondbacks are generally solitary, terrestrial snakes that are active during the day (diurnal) and evening