Western rattlesnakes are found in the warm, dry habitats of the Bay Area where they hunt rodents, small mammals, birds, other reptiles, and amphibians. Rattlesnakes are also on the menu for other animals—hawks, roadrunners, kingsnakes, and wild pigs all hunt and eat rattlesnakes.
Although drab in color, the distinct triangular-shaped head and tail rattles distinguish this snake from others. Western rattlesnakes usually keep to themselves and strike only when hunting, startled, or in defense.
Known by many names the western rattlesnakes has 20 different common names: Western rattlesnake, northern Pacific rattlesnake, Pacific rattlesnake, black rattlesnake, Arizona diamond rattlesnake, black diamond rattlesnake, black snake, California rattlesnake, confluent rattlesnake, diamond-back rattlesnake, Great Basin rattlesnake, Hallowell’s rattlesnake, Missouri rattlesnake, Oregon rattlesnake, Pacific rattler, rattlesnake, southern rattlesnake, western black rattlesnake, western rattler, and north Pacific rattlesnake.
How old is that snake? Some people think you can count the rattles to tell the age of a rattlesnake. They do gain a rattle every time they shed their skin; however, they also often break off old and worn rattles. So more rattles indicate an older snake, but you cannot age a snake by the number of rattles.
Lindsay Wildlife’s resident rattlesnake is an albino Western Rattlesnake that came to the wildlife rehabilitation hospital in 2018. It was brought to Lindsay after he was attacked with a set of tree trimmers. With damage to his eye, multiple lacerations and a fractured jaw the snake was lucky to survive. After wounds healed it became clear that he could no longer see out of his left eye and it was removed. The attack was so severe that part of his forked tongue fell out during rehabilitation, making him not returnable to the wild, though he can still eat. He is handled only with snake tongs by trained keepers and wildlife hospital staff. He can be seen in our main hall near the other reptiles. Come see this rare rattlesnake!
Did you know? There are two strains of albinism: Tyrosinase positive and Tyrosinase negative. Tyrosinase negative albinos are completely void of pigmentation, producing bright whites, yellows, and red pupils. Tyrosinase positive albinos have some darker pigmentation remaining. That’s why T+ albino morphs are typically referred to as “Caramel albinos”. Leucistic animals usually have very disrupted and/or missing patterns in addition to jet black eyes (pupils and irises alike) OR black pupils with blue irises. Our snake is T+.