Rattlesnakes are a group of venomous snakes of the genera Crotalus and Sistrurus of the subfamily Crotalinae ("pit vipers"). There are 32 known species of rattlesnake, with between 65-70 subspecies, all native to the Americas, ranging from southern Alberta and southern British Columbia in Canada to Central Argentina.
Rattlesnake meat can be prepared just about anyway you fix other meat. You can use it like chicken, bread it, fry it, put it in pasta dishes, chili, fajitas, really any way you would use chicken or pork. The main way people ruin rattlesnake meat is by over cooking it. For health reasons, you do not want to serve it rare, cook just until tender.
Depending upon how they are classified, there are around 30 species of this reptile. Their categorization is mainly based on the pattern and color of the skin. However, all of them have common identifying traits like triangular heads and characteristic jointed rattles at the tip of their tail.
Rattlesnakes usually prefer dry areas. They are commonly found in deserts, mountains and forests. However, some species like the Eastern Diamond snake can also be found in relatively humid environment. In United States, these snakes are found mostly in the southwestern states, although they are also seen in small numbers in the north, eastern and southern areas of the country as well.
Measuring from 3-4.5 feet (91-137 cm) or more in length, the timber rattlesnake is the largest venomous snake in New York. The record length is 74 ½ inches (189 cm). Timber rattlers impress one as being very stocky; they are large snakes. Despite their size, cryptic coloration allows them to be easily concealed.
Adults shed their skin every one or two years, with the average being every 1.4 years. A new rattle segment is added each time shedding occurs. Snakes with a complete set of rattles are rarely seen, however, since the rattles regularly break off. This rattler feeds primarily on small mammals, but occasionally takes small birds, amphibians and other snakes. The venom, which is used primarily to immobilize prey, can be fatal to humans if the bite is untreated.
Rattlesnakes carry venom that kill 5.5 people per year. Rattlesnake attacks are always defensive. Most rattlesnake related deaths are males between 17 and 27.
These stout-bodied pit vipers generally live in the dry, pine flatwoods, sandy woodlands, and coastal scrub habitats from southern North Carolina to Florida and west to Louisiana.
Rattlesnakes have a forked tongue that they flick up and down. The tongue picks microscopic airborne particles and gases from the air. When the tongue slips back into its mouth, it touches a sensitive spot on the roof of the mouth called the vomeronasal organ, or Jacobson's organ. This organ picks up the particles collected by the tongue and sends messages to the snake's brain identifying the scent as food, enemy, mate or other object or substance.
Rattlesnakes inhabit the prairies, grasslands, pine woods, swamps, and forests of both North and South America. Their range reaches from southern Canada to Argentina. A few live east of the Mississippi River, but most live in southwestern United States and northern Mexico.
Snakes have four main ways to travel. The most common is an S-shaped crawl. To do this, a snake wriggles from side to side, pushing against things so that it can move forward.
Rattlesnakes are pit vipers, possessing an indentation (or organ pit) below each eye, which help the animal detect slight changes in air temperature. This allows them to locate warm-blooded prey even in pitch darkness, providing the night air is not so warm as to mask the heat signature.
Female rattlers carry up to 25 eggs internally until hatched, giving birth to live wriggling snakes. The baby rattlers have a pre button on the tip of the tail which upon molting will start to develop rattles. Each time the snake molts or sheds its skin, a rattle is added.
Generally not aggressive, rattlesnakes strike when threatened or deliberately provoked, but given room they will retreat. Most snake bites occur when a rattlesnake is handled or accidentally touched by someone walking or climbing. The majority of snakebites occur on the hands, feet and ankles.
Rattlesnakes can cause serious injury to humans on rare occasions. The California Poison Control Center notes that rattlesnakes account for more than 800 bites each year with one to two deaths. Most bites occur between the months of April and October when snakes and humans are most active outdoors. About 25 percent of the bites are “dry,” meaning no venom was injected, but the bites still require medical treatment.
If someone is bitten by a poisonous snake, the bitten area should be immobilized and the victim transported to a hospital as quickly as possible. The bitten area should be washed with soap and water. A wide constriction bandage (tourniquet) may be applied two to four inches upstream of the bitten area (if on an extremity) so long as the pressure is not too tight (one or two fingers should be able to slide under the band).
The litter will begin to disperse as they venture out in search of food. Many newborn rattlesnakes do not survive their first year, either dying of hunger or being eaten by birds and animals. Even if they survive the first summer, they may perish during the first winter, if they can't find a suitable warm crevice in which to hibernate.
The size of the prey a rattlesnake selects is limited by its own ability to eat it, based upon its own size. Rattlesnakes eat lizards and small rodents such as ground squirrels, small rabbits, rats and mice, striking rather than attempting to hold their prey.