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
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.