Scientific Name: Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus
This snake has one of the greatest varieties in color of all the rattlesnakes in the United States. Its intricate color patterns help it camouflage in its rocky, desert environment. The southwestern is one of five subspecies of speckled rattlesnake found in the United States and Mexico.
Status: The speckled rattlesnake is listed as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Habitat: This rattlesnake prefers rocky areas and the open desert. It can be found in Northern Mexico, southern California, Nevada, Arizona and southwestern Utah.
Diet: The southwestern speckled rattlesnake eats small rodents, lizards and birds. It can be an active predator, although generally it will sit and wait to ambush its prey. After biting its victim and injecting it with venom, a rattlesnake will release the prey and follow its trail until the animal is incapacitated. The snake will then ingest its victim headfirst.
Physical Characteristics: The southwestern speckled rattlesnake grows to an average length of three feet. It has a small, triangular head, but its body has a considerable girth. The ground color can be off white, yellow, tan, grey, pink or orange, and it has dark crossbands and speckles along the body. Some that live among darker rocks or ancient lava beds can be almost black in color. Like most rattlesnakes, the speckled rattlesnake has keeled scales covering its body. It also has heat-sensing pits on the side of its head to locate prey.
Adhering to the reputation of rattlesnakes, the southwestern speckled rattlesnake has an aggressive nature. During mating season, males will wrestle with one another to assert their dominance. Two males will intertwine and try to push each other to the ground; the winner of this battle will generally have better reproductive success. The males, however, are not the only tough guys! Both sexes of this rattlesnake are known to rattle ferociously when they feel threatened. They are also generally quick to strike, injecting their victims with potent venom. Since this rattlesnake can be found throughout the southwestern United States, it is not uncommon for people to run into them. If this snake ever crosses your path, back away slowly but do so at once!