prairie rattlesnake

prairie rattlesnake 512x219

Typically active diurnally in cooler weather and nocturnally during hot weather, at Pathfinder NWR, you may hear a prairie rattlesnake rapidly vibrating its tail to warn you away from its vicinity.  This species of rattlesnake, although venemous,  is not typically aggressive and will usually flee if given the chance.


The prairie rattlesnake is best known for the unique rings on the end of its tail that knock together and make a rattling sound. A rattle is added to the string each time the rattlesnake sheds its skin. This happens up to five times in its first summer and around one to two times a year after that. Females tend to have less rings than males. The flat, triangular-shaped head conceals a pair of retractable fangs. The body ranges from greenish gray to greenish brown in color, with dark blotches on the back and a cream-colored underbelly. Because it is cold blooded, the prairie rattlesnake’s body temperature is affected by its surroundings. Occasionally, you will see them swimming in the reservoir. It hunts by striking rapidly at its prey and immobilizing them with the poisonous venom in its fangs. Use caution while observing this interesting species as a normal striking distance is two-thirds of the snake’s body length (2 to 2.5 feet, on average).  A careful, slow retreat is always a wise move so the snake can return to its business of hunting for ground squirrels, mice, rats, small rabbits, prairie dogs, amphibians, reptiles and ground nesting birds.