Fun Prairie Rattlesnake Facts For Kids

Joan Agie
May 18, 2023 By Joan Agie
Originally Published on Aug 05, 2021
Edited by Jacob Fitzbright
Fact-checked by Abdulqudus Mojeed
Prairie rattlesnake facts about the only venomous snake of Northern Mexico.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 6.9 Min

The prairie rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis) is also known as a western rattlesnake or great plains rattlesnake with an interesting natural history. It is a venomous pit viper species found in the western United States, southwestern Canada, and northern Mexico.

There are two recognizable sub-species along with the nominated species. This rattlesnake species can grow up to 40 in (101.6 cm) in length with a maximum recorded length of up to 60 in (152.4 cm).

One of the distinctive features of the prairie rattlesnake is that they have four internasal scales. Prairie rattlesnakes are lightly colored with brownish tones and patches of dark brown on the dorsal pattern. There may be a color band at the back of the eyes.

They have a triangle-shaped head with pit sensory organs on either side. They have two internasal contacting the rostral, which differentiates them from other rattlesnakes.

Prairie rattlesnakes (Crotalus viridis) are mostly found in pits dug in the grounds or on the ground, but they can climb trees or bushes. They can be found resting in crevices or caves so that they can maintain their body temperature.

They are active during the day during the winter months and during the night in the summer months. This species has one of the most powerful venoms, using 20-55 % of its venom in one bite, and will defend itself when threatened or injured.

Prairie rattlers are known to vibrate their tails rapidly.

Their tails have heat sensors that produce a unique rasping sound to warn intruders. After reading these interesting prairie rattlesnake facts, do check out our other articles on timber rattlesnakes and eastern diamondback rattlesnakes.

Prairie Rattlesnake Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Prairie Rattlesnake?

The prairie rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis) is a type of snake found over the Great Plains of  North America. They are widely distributed in this region and have a stable and increasing population.

What class of animal does a Prairie Rattlesnake belong to?

They belong to the reptile class of animals. However, they are known as viviparous, which means they give birth to their young.

How many Prairie Rattlesnakes are there in the world?

There are no overall population estimates available for the prairie rattlesnakes. They are found in a wide region of the Great Plains in North America. As the population is stable and increasing, they come under the least concern status on the IUCN list.

Where does a Prairie Rattlesnake live?

The prairie rattlesnake is found throughout the midwestern United States and parts of the southwest of Canada to northwestern Mexico. In Canada, it is found in the regions of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

In Mexico, they are found in the northern part of the Chihuahua region. They are found in most of New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and northeast Texas in the United States. On the eastern border, it is found on the borders of Nebraska, Arizona, and Dakotas.

What is a Prairie Rattlesnake's habitat?

The prairie rattlesnake range and is found between 100 to 2700 feet in elevation. They are found in rugged, rocky regions, as well as open fields that have a high population of their prey.

They can be found in the forests too as the forest debris on the ground acts as a protection for them.

They are found in grasslands and chaparral with shrubs and vegetation where they can camouflage themselves while waiting for their prey. They live in burrows or pits formed in the rocks, under branches, and also in caves, crevices, or holes dug by other animals.

Who do Prairie Rattlesnakes live with?

Prairie rattlesnakes live alone most of the time but may hibernate communally during the winters. They may also be found together during the breeding seasons.

How long does a Prairie Rattlesnake live?

Prairie rattlesnakes live for 16-24 years. They may be hunted aggressively by red-shouldered hawks or greater roadrunners limited to their upper band of age.

How do they reproduce?

They have a seven-week mating season from July to September. The males will seek out females during this period.

Not all females will be interested in mating as only 31% of the female population will be in heat. The female prairie snakes are said to be monogamous during that season and will seek out a new partner during the next.

There is very little competition between the males to seek a female and females also do not have any preference. The prairie snakes are iteroparous and the males have two sexual organs called hemipenes which are inside the hemipenal sheath and it is everted while mating.

The hemipenes are hook-shaped so that they remain attached to the female reproductive organs.

The males will insert their hemipenes in the female cloaca and the sperms are released internally. A small female snake can give birth to around five young while the larger females can give birth to around 25 young.

The young are fully developed when they are born and are 22-28 cm long. They do not need any parental care.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status of the prairie rattlesnake is of Least Concern as it is found widespread across its large habitat. The population is stable and increasing.

Prairie Rattlesnake Fun Facts

What do Prairie Rattlesnakes look like?

Close-up on the face of a prairie rattlesnake.

Prairie rattlesnakes are found in brownish tones with light brown spots with a narrow neck and brown side of the head. Their ventral side is also in colors of tan, yellowish, or grayish. This heat-sensing rattlesnake species can camouflage easily in its surroundings. The male and female snakes have similar physical features.

They have up to four nasal scales. They also have solenoglyphous teeth to transmit their venom. Seven different subspecies of prairie rattlesnakes differ slightly in appearance.

How cute are they?

Prairie rattlesnakes are not considered cute animals, due to their coloring and high toxicity venom. They are aggressive animals but can be dangerous if injured or harmed.

How do they communicate?

Prairie rattlesnake's eyesight is extremely weak, and therefore they depend on their ability to detect anything by the heat it emits. Rattlesnakes also rely on their sense of smell and tactile sense.

These rattlesnakes can detect different chemical cues emitted by other animals and use their tongues to do so. They use their vomeronasal organs to detect a threat or prey. Apart from this, they are not known to make much vocal communication.

How big is a Prairie Rattlesnake?

The prairie rattlesnake is a big snake with a length of 40-60 in (101.6-152.4 cm). They are longer than most snakes but slender too.

How fast can a Prairie Rattlesnake move?

The prairie rattlesnake can move rapidly. They can strike at a distance of two-thirds of their body length. They can move at the speed of 8 ft per second or 5 mph (8 kph).

How much does a Prairie Rattlesnake weigh?

The prairie rattlesnake weighs 8-12 oz (226.8-340.2 g). Owing to its weight, it can get its prey quickly and can slither at a faster pace.

What are the male and female names of the species?

The male and female prairie rattlesnakes do not have a specific name. However, their group can be called a nest, den, bed, pit, or knot.

What would you call a baby Prairie Rattlesnake?

The baby prairie rattlesnake may be called a snakelet.

What do they eat?

The western rattlesnake eats amphibians and reptiles like deer mice, voles, gophers, chipmunks, woodrats, and red squirrels. They can eat ground-nesting birds and eggs of any kind. They may also eat a prairie dog, but that is about the largest animal it will eat.

Are they poisonous?

The venom of prairie rattlesnakes is extremely lethal and they are venomous snakes. The release of 20-55 % of their venom is a single bite. Be aware of the Prairie Rattlesnake bite as it can be vital to you.

Would they make a good pet?

It wouldn't be a good idea to have them as pets due to their lethal venom. They may be kept in captivity in public spaces like zoos.

Did you know...

The best way to deter any snake is to have plants and trees which are cut off from the ground and to not provide any canopy. Hedges and rows of bushes along the walls are the worst possible thing to attract them to your home.

How to tell the age of prairie rattlesnakes?

The prairie rattlesnake adult will grow to a size of 40 in (101.6 cm), whereas the juvenile will be of the size 12 in (30.5 cm). Prairies reach sexual maturity at the age of three.

Comparisons With Other Rattlesnakes

The diamondback rattlesnake has a dark diamond-shaped pattern on its back, the tails have black and white bands. The prairie rattlesnake has a light brownish color with some dark brown large spots spread across their bodies.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other reptiles including the coral snake and the hognose snake.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one of our Prairie Rattlesnake coloring pages.

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Written by Joan Agie

Bachelor of Science specializing in Human Anatomy

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Joan AgieBachelor of Science specializing in Human Anatomy

With 3+ years of research and content writing experience across several niches, especially on education, technology, and business topics. Joan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Human Anatomy from the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria, and has worked as a researcher and writer for organizations across Nigeria, the US, the UK, and Germany. Joan enjoys meditation, watching movies, and learning new languages in her free time.

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Fact-checked by Abdulqudus Mojeed

Bachelor of Law

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Abdulqudus MojeedBachelor of Law

A versatile professional with a passion for creative writing and technology. Abdulqudus is currently pursuing his Bachelor of Law from the University of Lagos and has experience as a tutor, intern assistant, and volunteer. He possesses strong organizational skills and is a detail-oriented person.

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