Rattlesnakes In Colorado

According to Wikipedia, there are up to 53 recognized species and subspecies of rattlesnakes. Most U.S. states, including Colorado, contain at least a few different kinds of rattlesnakes.

There are three separate rattlesnake species in the state of Colorado, compared to as many as 14 species in some of Colorado’s bordering states. Which brings us to the subject of this essay, Colorado’s rattlesnakes.

Only in the Americas can you find rattlesnakes, which are deadly members of the viper family. They often like dry weather, grasslands, scrubby areas, rocky terrain, and other places where they may go in search of food. In the United States, the great plains appear to be where rattlesnakes are most prevalent. Even so, there are numerous different species of rattlesnakes in the east.

The “rattles” on the tips of their tails are how they got their moniker. These rattles are actually comprised of keratin segments—the same material that makes up our fingernails—that are precisely spaced apart to produce the rattling sound that deters predators when the animals shake the tips of their tails.

Types of Rattlesnakes in Colorado

Only three different varieties of rattlesnakes, all of which are poisonous, are found in Colorado’s 29 snake species. Rattlesnakes are generally not violent, but if they feel threatened by a human, a dog, or another disturbance, they may defend themselves.

Although most interactions between humans and rattlesnakes take place in the fall, sightings are documented throughout the year in various regions of the state.

All of Colorado’s rattlesnake species have a few distinctive traits that may be used to help identify any one of them in the wild before we get into the particular variants below. All of Colorado’s rattlesnakes have a huge, triangle-shaped head, vertical pupils, and a thick, hefty body, in addition to the unmistakable “rattle” at the end of their tails.

Desert Massasauga

South-eastern Colorado is home to the Desert Massasauga. Additionally, it is present in northern Mexico and the southwest of the United States. Being timid and non-aggressive, these snakes only sometimes attack when they feel threatened. Instead, they make an effort to flee the danger as swiftly and stealthily as they can.

Although desert massasaugas occasionally rattle, their rattles are much smaller than those of bigger rattlesnakes, therefore the sound is much quieter. The rattle of the desert massasauga has been compared to crickets by some.

The desert massasauga is a little species that only gets up to 18 inches long. This snake may blend into dry and sandy regions thanks to the brown dots or blotches that run along its back and give it a tan or gray tint.

Additionally, desert massasaugas have small white lines immediately below their dark cheek stripes on both sides of their faces.

Although these snakes have long lives, they seldom reproduce. In addition, a lot of their habitats have been overrun by agricultural and urban expansion. In Colorado, desert massasauga rattlesnakes are considered a Special Concern Species.

Prairie Rattlesnake

In Colorado, these rattlesnakes may be found in open prairies, grasslands, semi-arid shrublands, and wooded areas. Even at heights as high as 9500 feet (2900 m), you can find them.

During the winter, the Prairie Rattlesnake hibernates, frequently in group dens. Usually, these dens are caves, rock fissures, or former animal burrows. Each winter, each snake will return to the same cave, and in the spring, each snake will travel up to seven kilometers to its hunting grounds.

These snakes will freeze if they feel threatened and use their camouflage to hide. They could also stealthily creep away to hide. They may coil and rattle their tail to warn off an approaching predator before charging. Although uncommon, its strong venom, which possesses hemotoxic and neurotoxic effects, may be lethal to an adult person.

The ICUN Red List classifies prairie rattlesnakes as a species of least concern. However, in some areas of their range, they are regarded as endangered and decreasing. The stresses from habitat fragmentation and poaching are their main risks.

Midget Faded Rattlesnake – Crotalus concolor

Another unusual rattlesnake in Colorado is the Crotalus concolor (also known as Crotalus oreganus concolor), sometimes known as the “midget faded rattlesnake,” the “yellow rattlesnake,” or simply the “faded rattlesnake.”

Location: The Green River and Colorado River basins in Colorado are the only areas where midget-faded rattlesnakes may be found naturally. This covers snakes found in the Rio Blanco, San Miguel, Garfield, Mesa, and Delta counties.

Midget-faded rattlesnakes can easily scale canyon walls and are frequently found close to sandstone cliffs and on rocky outcrops along the Green or Colorado Rivers. The snakes favor sunny, south-facing locations with groundcover and bushes for cover.

Crotalus concolor is known by the nicknames “midget” and “faded” owing to its appearance. Only reaching a maximum length of around 2 feet, midget-faded rattlesnakes are sometimes difficult to see when lazily moving because of their delicate pigmentation.

Midget-faded snakes are normally formed of yellow, pink, and red scales with a pattern of darker patterns that gradually fade with age. They blend in with the landscape in western Colorado.

The Friendly (but scary looking) Bullsnake

The Bullsnake has markings on its back that range in color from reddish-brown to black. They have cream-colored bellies with brown or black markings.

Their tail is a bolder hue and is ringed with tan and black (dark brown) rings. They typically range in length from 50 to 72 inches. Compared to rattlesnakes, they are significantly bigger. Bullsnakes have a vibrating tail that might be mistaken for a rattlesnake, but if handled carefully, they can grow docile.

Western Massasauga

Only in southeast Colorado does the Western Massasauga rattlesnake dwell, mostly in sandy areas. Venom from Western Massasauga is cytotoxic.

Both tissue and blood clotting are destroyed. The tranquil nature of these snakes prevents human bites, nevertheless. According to the U.S., the western massasauga is a candidate for federal listing. Act on Endangered Species.

Western massasaugas have a length range of 14–36 inches, a light gray body color, and dark brown spots running along their backs. These rattlesnakes resemble the desert massasaugas in appearance.

Western massasaugas’ black blotches, on the other hand, appear significantly brighter due to their lighter and softer foundation colors.

Additionally, these snakes have a recognizable dark stripe that runs down the side of their faces and across each eye. The high-pitched rattle of western massasauga rattlesnakes has earned them the nickname “Buzztails.”

Western Rattlesnake

This species, often referred to as the Northern Pacific Rattle Snake, lives in a variety of environments. They inhabit meadows, wooded regions, and hilly terrain. They frequently occur near to people.

Due of their wide variety, Western Rattlesnakes have great concealment and distinctive colors. They have a distinctive color pattern while they are young, but as they become older, it gradually disappears.

These snakes are frequently coiled and active both during the day and at night, seeking to ambush a variety of prey. Small animals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians will all be food for them. Additionally, they could consume bird eggs, and juvenile snakes typically devour insects.

This species of rattlesnake gives birth to live offspring. A sexually mature, healthy woman may give birth to up to 25 children!

Rattlesnake Behavior

Snakes would rather avoid humans than bite them. The purpose of a rattlesnake shaking its tail is to frighten you away rather than bite you. Be cooperative by relocating gradually. If a snake is startled or trapped, it is most likely to bite. Give it enough room, and it will probably crawl away.

Though they are not hostile, rattlesnakes are fast to go on the defense. Some even claim that the fact that a rattlesnake rattles at all is polite. The rattle serves as a friendly warning that it’s better if you stay away from the snake. However, keep in mind that rattlesnakes may not rattle before to striking.

Even a snake that is not coil can bite. A snake may not have time to coil if you catch it by surprise, but it may still try to bite you.

Because young snakes have less experience hunting and are still learning how to strike, they tend to be more aggressive and deadly than adult snakes. Juvenile snakes will inject more venom than an adult snake would since they are still in the learning process.

Additionally, because they lack experience, young people could worry too much about you. If this is the case, they could take a chance on a pointless run-in with you when an adult snake would have the wisdom to just slither away given their expertise.

The blood in rattlesnakes is cold. This implies that when it’s cold outside, they move more slowly. They rest on heated pavement or pebbles to absorb heat because they need to stay warm. Snakes must seek the shade (behind a shrub, rock, or log) if the temperature rises beyond 100 degrees in order to prevent heat exhaustion.

Rattlesnakes spend the most of their time in hiding and the remainder in ambush, where they wait for a mouse, bird, or lizard to pass by.

They can distinguish between different levels of heat, so on a hot day you might blend in more seamlessly than you would in the nighttime or early morning heat. In order to avoid provoking a rattlesnake, keep your cool and move carefully away from it.

Snakes rely on their sense of touch since they have poor vision. This implies that they will probably sense you approaching before they really see you.

Rattlesnake Danger in Colorado

All four of the rattlesnake species that may be found in Colorado are not particularly aggressive. They will nonetheless continue to defend and have the option of striking if they so choose.

Give a rattlesnake plenty of room and keep at least a few feet away from it if you see one. Be cautious while walking close to rock fissures or cracks when hiking.

It’s crucial to remain cool if a rattlesnake bites you. The rattlesnake should not be killed or taken with you for treatment. Hospitals do not require you to know what kind of rattlesnake it is since they have anti-venom that works on many different types of them.

Additionally, you can get bitten again if you try to kill or catch a rattlesnake. Take a photo of the snake on your phone if you are concerned. Avoid using a tourniquet to your wound since it will exacerbate your damage, and avoid attempting to suction the venom from it. Seek medical help as soon as you can.

Rattle Snake Activity Changes With The Seasons

Early spring to mid-fall is when rattlesnakes are most active. In the winter, they hibernate. Following their hibernation, rattlesnakes are most active and hostile in the spring and early summer. Their young are born in the months of August through October. Then, over the winter, both the young and the adults hibernate.

A mother may have between 1 and 25 children at once! But the usual range is between 4 and 12. There is a flurry of activity when all of these rattlesnakes come out of hibernation in the spring.

Rattlesnake Season occurs at this time, and it’s important to be especially cautious since the juvenile snakes can be very aggressive when they first come out of hibernation.

Rattlesnakes have a tendency to disperse and go out on their own throughout the summer. During the summer, they won’t be as concentrated in one place.

As the rattlesnakes scramble to find a warm place to hibernate for the winter, you might notice another flurry of activity in the late summer and early fall. Snakes are more likely to be seen inside buildings or in barns at this time of year.

What to do if you encounter a rattlesnake

When exploring one of Colorado’s wildlife areas, the best approach to prevent a terrible encounter with a rattlesnake is to always stay on the route. Rattlesnakes like to hide, so although they occasionally are seen crossing routes, encounters with them are far less often on well used paths in touristy locations.

The most crucial action to take if you come across a rattlesnake in the outdoors is to attempt to avoid harming the reptile in any way.

This entails keeping your hands, feet, and pets to yourself and restraining yourself from hurling rocks or sticks at a snake that appears to be a threat. Remember that although these animals are highly poisonous, they usually only bite people when provoked.

In the worst-case situation, killing a rattlesnake to save your life or property is lawful in Colorado. That being said, the best method to protect yourself in any situation is to always try to limit your contact and engagement with rattlesnakes.

Although rattlesnakes may seem dangerous to you, they play an important role in Colorado’s ecosystem as both predators and prey for a variety of native species. For the continuing health and safety of Colorado’s rattlesnakes and natural environments, “leave no trace” rules should always be adhered to when enjoying nature.