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What is a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox)

What is a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake


Iconic. The Western Diamondback Rattlesnake is THE snake that represents the American southwest and desert in just about any form of media you can think of.

Known for its mean looks and even meaner bite, the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake is responsible for more snake bites than any other venomous snake in the United States due to its fearlessness to back down when it feels threatened.

The venom of a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake isn’t terribly potent like let’s say an Inland Taipan, which has enough power to kill 100 people with one bite, but what it lacks in potency it makes up in volume. When biting something, the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake will inject anywhere from 175 mg and 600 mg, with a maximum of 700–800 mg of venom into its victim.

For reference, the Copperhead will average around 100mg of venom and the Cottonmouth 80 mg – 170 mg. 

The good thing is if you’re bitten by a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake, there’s a very good chance it won’t kill you as long as you get medical treatment as fast as humanly possible. Even those who don’t get treatment will have a 10 – 20 percent chance of dying and while that is concerningly high, it’s not nearly as bad as some other snake bites where one bite is essentially a death sentence.

Related Article: Snakes in Nevada

Now venoms are complex and complications do occur, so don’t assume you can tough it out because it could come back to haunt you. Get help, no questions asked.

The Western Diamondback Rattlesnake venom is a concoction of different toxins like cytotoxins and mycotoxins which destroy cells and surrounding muscle tissue and hemotoxin which shred blood vessels and attack the heart. The venom is classified as being primarily hemotoxic which is why bite wounds can get gruesome and rotted as time goes on. 

Even though I’ve made it sound like these snakes are out for blood, it’s not like they’re actively hunting people. While the snake can get big, we’re bigger and scare the snake which leads to biting.

If you are aware of your surroundings and respect its space, the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake will leave you alone. Accidents do happen but don’t blame the snake, it’s just trying to protect itself from something over 25 times its size the only way it knows how.

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake Overview

What is a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake


  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Reptilia
  • Order: Squamata
  • Suborder: Serpentes
  • Clade: Caenophidia
  • Clade: Colubroides
  • Family: Viperidae
  • Subfamily: Crotalinae
  • Genus: Crotalus
  • Species: C. atrox

Size and Body Description

The Western Diamondback Rattlesnake are a relatively average to medium size snake with thick bodies and weighing around 3 to 6 lbs. There have been reports of up to 15 lb snakes but those tend to be rare. Even though it may be a medium size snake, the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake is one of the largest of the rattlesnake species falling behind its east coast relative, the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake.

As for coloration and patterns, the snake will typically match its surroundings by being tan, brown, red, or even slightly pink if you’re lucky. The back consists of blotches of dark, diamond shaped patterns which run the length of its body and its where the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake is where it gets its name. The diamond patterns are outlined with white or light colored scales and the inside of the pattern tends to be a lighter color as well.

Their head is shaped like a triangle, which is typical of most if not all vipers. Starting at their eyes, there are two diagonal lines that run all the way to the back of their jaw that are darker than the surrounding scales.

The Western Diamondback Rattlesnake tails are banded black with white or gray separating them, that end with their iconic rattle which can shake over 60 times a second.


Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes are commonly 4 feet in length and can rarely grow up to 5 or 6 feet. Males are much larger than females but only once maturity has been reached.


Like other desert dwelling snakes, the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake feeds on birds, reptiles, and small mammals like rodents, rabbits, and mice. Smaller snakes will eat the occasional frog or insect if it gets the opportunity to.


Breeding occurs in the spring with live young being born sometime between August and October. Female Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes will give birth anywhere from 4 to 25 young. Young snakes are able to produce and inject venom the moment they are born so just because they seem small, they’re far from safe.

Where Found

Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes are found primarily in 6 states including California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, and parts of Oklahoma.

The snake also lives in northern Mexico going as far as central Mexico.

On rare occasions, Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes will venture into Nevada but only the southern most tip where it’s the hottest.


Western Diamondbacks are not endangered as of writing this and have no federal protections due to their stable population.

References Used

  • Wikipedia – Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

What is a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake