Online Field Guide to The Reptiles and Amphibians of Arizona

Prairie Rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis) Arizona
Apache County, AZ

Prairie Rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis) Arizona
Apache Co., AZ
Prairie Rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis) Arizona
Apache Co., AZ
Hopi Rattlesnake. Prairie Rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis) Arizona
Coconino County, AZ

 PRAIRIE RATTLESNAKE   Crotalus viridis
DESCRIPTION: Maximum size for this rattlesnake ranges from 700 mm (28″) to 1,620 mm (64″) in total length excluding rattle. Base coloration is highly variable. Individuals can be olive, straw-yellow, gray-brown, pinkish, or orange-brown. A series of large, dark blotches, often with thin white edges, runs the length of the back. Two additional rows of small blotches line each side. Facial and head markings are usually prominent and include dark bars extending from the eye to the corner of the mouth. A dark bar often extends across the top of the head between the eyes. The pupils are vertically elliptical. The dorsal scales are keeled. The neck is slender and the head is broad and triangular. On the end of the tail is a rattle composed of a series of loosely interlocking keratinous sections. A new section is added each time the snake sheds its skin.

DISTRIBUTION: This snake is distributed across the plateaus of northeastern Arizona south and east of the Colorado River. In Arizona it is found at elevations ranging from ca. 4,500′ to about 9,000′.

HABITAT: The Prairie Rattlesnake is found in Great Basin Desertscrub, Plains and Great Basin Grassland, and lower reaches of Great Basin Conifer Woodland communities. It is often encountered near features such as rock outcroppings and low ridges but it is also encountered on vast, relatively featureless plains.

It is primarily nocturnal and crepuscular during the hot summer months and diurnal in spring and on mild or overcast summer days.
It hibernates alone or in a group den during the cold months of late fall and winter. Like the other “pit-vipers” (members of the subfamily Crotalinae) this snake uses heat sensing pits (one on each side of the face between the eye and nostril) to detect warm-blooded predators and prey.

DIET: The Prairie Rattlesnake feeds on mice, other small mammals, birds, and lizards. It uses venom injected through long, hollow, retractable fangs to kill and begin digesting its prey.

REPRODUCTION: Mating takes place in July and August. Young are born in summer.

HOPI RATTLESNAKE Crotalus viridis nuntius.
This subspecies is usually small (up to 28″) and has variable coloration. Specimens can be tan, gray, gray-brown, pinkish-brown, orange-brown, or yellowish-tan.
GREEN PRAIRIE RATTLESNAKE Crotalus viridis viridis. This subspecies is larger (up to 64″) and is usually tan or yellow-brown wi
th brown blotches. Some specimens are olive or greenish-gray.

REMARKS: This rattlesnake is capable of delivering large amounts of potent venom. If encountered it should be left alone. A large percentage of envenomations occur when a snake is handled or abused.

By Thomas C. Brennan

Bartlett. 2000. Snakes of North America: Western
Gulf Publishing Co. Houston, TX

Brennan, T. C., and A. T. Holycross. 2006. A Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles in Arizona. Arizona Game and Fish Department. Phoenix, AZ

Degenhardt, W. G., Painter, C. W., and Price, A. H.. 1996. Amphibians and Reptiles of New Mexico. University of New Mexico Press. Albuquerque.

Fowlie. 1965. The Snakes of Arizona. Azul Quinta Press, Fallbrook, California

Lowe, Schwalbe, Johnson. 1986. The Venomous Reptiles of Arizona. Nongame Branch
Arizona Game and Fish Department. Phoenix, AZ

Stebbins. 1985. Western Reptiles and Amphibians. Houghton Mifflin. New York, NY

Prairie Rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis) Arizona Range Map

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