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Baby Rattlers

October 2, 2018

Baby Rattlers

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Eric Januszkiewicz Eric Januszkiewicz

When most people think about rattlesnakes, they picture a fierce-looking predator that is ready to strike at will.  However, baby rattlesnakes are quite the contrary.

While conducting research on timber rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus) in Pennsylvania, I came across a female with her six young nestled in a crevice between two boulders. The mother was not alarmed by me and did not even rattle when I came near because she saw that I was posing no threat. The neonates all watched me intently. I was able to get close enough to get some photos and count how many little ones there were.

Timber rattlesnakes give birth to live young with an average clutch size of eight. When they are first born, the neonates tend to have a grayish color pattern to them, unlike the adults. The mother stays with her young for about a week after giving birth to protect them, at which point she leaves the gestation site so her young can learn to fend for themselves.

Baby timber rattlesnakes are born with enough nutrients (“baby fat”) in them to survive about a year without eating. In addition to carrying a little extra weight when they are born, neonates appear to have enlarged eyes in proportion to their heads. This will change as they grow and develop into more fierce-looking predators in their adult years.

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