Diamondback rattlesnakes fall into two species, the Eastern diamondback and the Western diamondback. Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes inhabit most of the southeast and all of Florida. The Western diamondback rattlesnakes inhabit the majority of the southwest. The range of the western diamondback extends down into Mexico, and their habitat ranges from coastal areas to the deserts and high mountain terrain.
In general diamondback rattlesnakes are aggressive. When provoked they will get into their defensive stance and rattle their tails. Their tendency is to strike first, then retreat, but they do not back down. Perhaps this is due to their solitary nature. Even hatchlings will stay with their mother for only a few hours after birth before hunting and fending for themselves. The scary fact is that even a newborn can administer venomous bites.
Diamondback venom is not particularly toxic but they can still be dangerous. Diamondback rattlesnakes can control the amount of venom that’s delivered through their fangs meaning that in one bite they can release as much or as little venom as they want, though sometimes none at all. Often times they will deliver a dry bite and sometimes they will miss. If their fangs are broken or bend backwards during the strike it is most fortuitous to you.
An interesting fact about the western diamondback rattlesnake is that it can survive for up to two years in the wild without food. Remarkably enough during periods of starvation the snake can reduce energy expenditure by as much as 80 %. What is even more intriguing is that the rich fat store that these snakes feed off of while starving can actually be converted into skeletal and muscular growth.
Like other pit vipers, diamondbacks are ambush hunters, hunting primarily at night. The large majority of their diet consists of small mammals such as rodents and mice. They occupy the middle of the food chain and are preyed upon by larger birds and mammals such as hawks, foxes, and coyotes.
Like any other snake bite, bites from diamondback rattlesnakes should be medically treated immediately. Not often fatal, the venom can spread quickly and spreads pain and swelling where it travels. The pain caused by the venom is actually tissue digestion. Small children are especially vulnerable to rattlesnake venom as it can travel more quickly. Typically diamondback rattlesnakes do not deliver fatal bites, but be cautious when moving through their territory. Remember, diamondback rattlesnakes will stand and defend their ground expecting you to move away rather than them, making snake proof boots a good idea if you absolutely have to move through areas full of these aggressive vipers.