Its ground color varies across its geographic range, but is generally yellow to tan with variable amounts of black stippling (Connant 1975). With its long fangs, it’s able to introduce large amounts of potent venom per bite. Laboratory and field evidence suggest that the venom from individuals originating from certain populations in the South contain larger fractions of neurotoxic peptides than their northern counterparts (Tennant, 1998). The preferred habitat of the species varies across the range and includes upland deciduous forests, rocky ridges, riparian corridors, cypress swamps, cane reed thickets and wet prairie regions.
The dorsal pattern is best characterized as a series of black chevrons, and the caudal body and tail are almost invariably black, hence, in some areas, its local name is “velvet tailed rattler”. Individuals originating from the southern and western aspects of the range often have a prominent cinnamon colored vertebral stripe that extends from the neck down to the level of the tail (Tennant, 1998). The head is typically plain in individuals from the northeast, but often bears a black stripe that extends from the eyes caudo-ventrally to and beyond the corners of the mouth on individuals from the southern and western aspects of the range (Tennant, 1998).
This image was created in 2005 and provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Edward J. Wozniak D.V.M., Ph.D.
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