Prairie Rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis)
  Danger- Venomous

Description: Numerous dark brown blotches on a gray or gray-brown background. The tail banded light and dark. The pupil is elongate and vertical. There is a special sensory pit on side of head between eye and nostril.

Habitat: Preferred habitats include areas near rocky outcrops and prairie dog towns.

Size: 10-45 inches long;

Diet: Small mammals and other small vertebrates.

Natural History: When disturbed this snake typically sounds a warning by rattling their tail. Nonpoisonous snakes such as the Bullsnake may mimic this behavior by vibrating their tail against vegetation. However, only the poison rattlesnake has the specialize sound producing rattle on the tip of its tail.

Prairie Rattlesnakes may over-winter in large dens, which contain up to several hundred snakes. Unlike the poisonous snakes of eastern Nebraska, the Prairie Rattlesnake is still fairly common over a large part of the state.

Special sensory pits are used to 'see' infrared light. This makes the pit a heat detector and allows this snake to hunt warm blooded small mammals in total darkness.

This snake is a 'sit and wait' predator. It often coils up and waits quietly for its prey to come within striking distance. Camouflage coloration makes this motionless snake difficult to see. Care should be taken when in rattlesnake county to watch your step and look before putting your hand near ground.

Prairie Rattlesnakes do not lay eggs, females give live birth 5-18 snakes every other year. The young have a simple button rattle. Rattle segments are added each time the snakes sheds its skin. Warning: new born rattlers are small, but they are venomous.

Similar species:

  1. Only rattlesnake in western 75% of Nebraska. Compare to the distribution of Massasauga and Timber Rattlesnake.