Floridian Nature

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Florida Snakes: Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
Eastern diamondback rattlesnake found throughout the state of FloridaA majestic creature, the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake is the most feared and dangerous snake in both Florida and the United States! Diamondbacks are found throughout the state of Florida, including several offshore islands and keys, and north along the coastal plain to southeastern North Carolina and west to southern Mississippi and eastern Louisiana. It's prime habitat is pine flatwoods, although it can occur just about anywhere, even in country towns and city suburbs. These habitats contain palmetto thickets and gopher tortoise burrows in which the Diamondback may seek refuge. The eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake is a heavy-bodied pit viper with a large triangular head.

The Diamondback has an unmistakable yellow and dark brown pattern on it's back. All snakes lack ears, but no one is certain they are totally deaf. At any rate they are sensitive to vibrations of the ground. The average adult size of the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake is 36-72 inches, with the record length being 96 inches. The tail of the Diamondback is usually a different shade, brownish or gray, and toward the end of the tail the diamonds fade out or break into bands. The large and thick head has a light bordered dark stripe running diagonally through the eye and there are vertical light stripes on the snout. The pupil is vertical and catlike. The snakes venom is produced in glands which are located below and behind the rattlers eyes. These bulging glands, on either side of the head help give the head a triangular appearance.

Like all pit vipers, there is a  deep facial pit between the nostril and the eye. The facial pits are extremely sensitive heat-detecting organs, with which the rattler can home in on warm blooded prey. The pit organs can detect differences in temperatures as small as three one-thousandths of a degree centigrade! Pit vipers produce a  hemotoxic venom that destroys the blood cells of both warm-blooded and cold-blooded animals. A blindfolded Diamondback can still strike accurately on it's target, guided by the remarkable sensitivity of its heat-detecting organs.



Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake found throughout the state of FloridaRattlesnakes have folding fangs which flip back  against the roof of the mouth when not in use. This design allows the fangs to be longer and deadlier than if they were in a fixed position. As the snake opens its mouth to strike, the fangs swing out. At the moment of striking, the Diamondback's jaws are open very wide, and the fangs are pointing forward toward the target.. The force of the snakes strike stabs the fangs into the flesh of the prey. When a pit viper strikes, muscles in its head squeeze venom out of the glands into small ducts that enter the base of the fangs, which then enters the the victim through a small hole near the tip of the fang. Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes replace their fangs about every three months. Removing a pit vipers fangs will not make it safe, since new fangs will grow to replace them.

An Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake strikes at prey only when it senses that it can make a kill. It strikes at a predator only when it feels extremely threatened. The Eastern Diamondback usually needs to strike only once to achieve its objective. A rattlesnake can usually strike faster than the human eye can follow. The Eastern Diamond Rattlesnake can strike and recoil in 1/4 of a second! The Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake preys on rats, mice, rabbits, and other warm blooded prey, many of which are considered pests. When threatened the Eastern Diamondback usually coils nosily, faces its intruder, hisses, and vibrates its rattles to create aloud pitched warning buzz. The rattler can strike accurately as far as half its body length and should never be approached more closely than about six feet.

The Eastern Diamondback rattle is made of of a substance called keratin, similar to human fingernails. At birth, a rattlesnake has only a single button at the end of its tail. As the snake grows, another loosely interlocking segment is added each time it sheds its skin. A healthy rattlesnake might shed its skin and add another rattle as often as four times a year, but the snake can also have a few or even all of the segments break off from time to time, so it is an unreliable marker for guessing the age of the rattlesnake. The rattles are probably a protective device to scare away predators.
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