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Rattlesnake, Banded Rock

Banded Rock Rattlesnake (Photo by Tad Motoyama) at the LA Zoo LAIR

Scientific Name: Crotalus lepidus klauber

The banded rock rattlesnake has short, retractable fangs that are used to deliver its venom. While a bite from this particular rattlesnake may not be life-threatening, it is still very painful. There are four subspecies of the rock rattlesnake, Crotalus lepidus kluaber, Crotalus lepidus lepidus, Crotalus lepidus morules, and Crotalus lepidus maculosus.

Shake, Rattle and Run!

The rattle at the end of a rattlesnake’s tail is made of hollow sections of keratin, the same material that makes up human hair and nails.  Every time the snake sheds, another section is added on.  Sometimes segments can break off, especially in the wild where a rattlesnake moves through a variety of environments.  To produce the rattling sound, the snake contracts special muscles in its tail that move the sections of the rattle.  As the different parts vibrate against one another, they produce the rattling sound that is then amplified because the keratin sections are hollow.  It is believed that the primary purpose of the rattle is to warn predators to leave these snakes alone!

This rattlesnake still has a large enough population for it to be categorized as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Rock rattlesnakes are so-named because they typically reside in rocky canyons, mountainsides or stream beds.  They can be found in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and northern Mexico.

They prefer lizards, but these snakes will also eat small rodents and some invertebrates.

Somewhat small for a rattlesnake, the banded rock rattlesnake usually grows to be 12 to 18 inches long.  There is a slight difference in color between the males and females.  While the males have a blue-green ground color, the females tend to be more gray-blue.   Both sexes also have deep brown or black bands around their body, running from their neck to their tail.  This coloring helps them blend in well in their rocky environments.  Juveniles have a yellow tip to their tail, just before the rattle, but as they mature the color becomes reddish brown.  Like many other snakes, these rattlers have heat-sensing pits to locate prey using body heat.  Their pits are located between the eye and the nostril on each side of the face.

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