The Red Diamondback Rattlesnake is one of the most beautiful of all the rattlesnakes I have seen. They have brownish red diamonds with white edges. The belly is a creamy white. The striking black and white rings on the tail are iconic. Although I have never seen a juvenile, I am told that they are born grayish and gradually progress to their adult colors.
This snake is a pit viper so has the classic triangular-shaped head that is twice as wide as their neck to accommodate the venom glands. They also have hollow ½ fangs which act as a hypodermic needle to inject the venom. Their eyes have elliptical, vertical pupils which will help with identification if you can’t see the tail. The snakes I have seen have been about 3 feet long, but have reached 5 feet in captivity. They are a heavy-bodied snake.
You can find this rattlesnake in the southwest of California south through the Baja peninsula. It prefers rocky hillsides with outcrops, coastal scrub, lower woodlands, and cultivated fields. It is usually not found in the desert or in elevations over 5000 feet. According to the San Diego Zoo, the Red Diamondback will only travel a couple of miles its entire life. They also believe that the snake makes a “mental map” of its area and can return to the same rock every year.
The Southwest Biological Science Center states that the venom is less toxic than other rattlesnakes, but they can deliver up to three times the amount that could kill a person. The venom can produce swelling, localized pain, and blood degeneration. Other symptoms include nausea and vomiting. The University of California at Davis reports that the toxicity of an adult Red Diamondback is 6-15 times greater than a juvenile. The venom has been dried and stored for 20 years and still retains its toxicity. The good news is these snakes rarely bite. In fact, more people die of bee stings than bites from Red Diamondback Rattlesnakes.
If you are hiking in their area you may consider adding a snake bite kit to your pack. You should watch where you put your hands and your feet, especially when stepping over obstacles. Wear boots that reach above your ankles. Walk around a rattlesnake that you see or hear. Never try to “hand” any rattlesnake always use a snake tong. You can view these creatures from a distance and then you will see the beauty I see when I find a Red Diamondback Rattlesnake.