Scientific Name: Crotalus ruber
The two species of red diamond rattlesnake (Crotalus ruber) is also known as the Cedros Island rattlesnake (Crotalus exsul). Their differing names comes from their individual habitats (exsul for the island and ruber for the mainland). This snake keeps cool during the day by staying beneath rocks and by occasionally climbing up short trees and shrubs.
STATUS: This species is classified as of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
HABITAT: The red diamond rattlesnake typically resides in the mountainous and desert regions of coastal Southern California and into Baja California.
DIET: This species typically feeds on small rabbits and birds that call the coastal hills home, but the occasional lizard can be added to its meal as well.
PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS: The back of this snake ranges from tan to red in color. A distinguishing feature of this species is a series of dark red diamonds, from which its name “red diamond” is derived, outlined by a tannish white border. The red diamond rattlesnake is fairly large in size, ranging from 30 to 60 inches in length, with the longest recorded specimen measuring in at around 65 inches. Males of the species can be distinguished from females by their shorter, more blunt tails. Juvenile red diamond rattlesnakes are usually dull gray in color, and do not receive their distinctive red diamonds until a few sheds.
Deck of Diamonds?
An unusual characteristic of this snake is that it is known to climb short heights (one or two feet) to escape hot weather or to get a better view on the nearby surroundings. Therefore this snake, native to areas typically settled by humans, has the possibility of making a home out of anyone’s patio or deck, though it usually resides in the underbrush of coastal hills. Typically not an aggressive snake, the red diamond rattlesnake is venomous and is defensive against anyone who antagonizes it. When provoked, the snake will swing into an impressive hostile striking position with its neck held high in a loop and its head lowered to strike. The red diamond rattlesnake is both impressively beautiful as well as impressively deadly, using high venom yields to subdue its opponents (rather than small amounts of highly potent venom). Being a more docile species, this snake will only attack when provoked or annoyed, so if your backyard deck is full of these red diamonds, it may be better for you to try your luck with another hand.