- Author: Karey Windbiel-Rojas
Rattlesnakes have a distinctive, triangular-shaped head, which can be helpful in their identification; and as their name implies, most have a rattle on the tail end. The harmless gopher snake (Pituophis catenifer) appears similar to rattlesnakes and can alter its posture to mimic the triangular head shape but will always lack a rattle. However because rattles can break off, the lack of a rattle does not mean the snake is not a rattlesnake.
If rattlesnakes are in the area, they will most likely be hidden in rock crevices, under logs, in heavy brush, or in other areas where they are protected, including tall grass; but they can also be found on roads, paths, and other areas where cover is limited. Be careful when moving brush, wood, logs, or other debris. In rattlesnake country, be alert when kneeling down to work in the garden and watch where you step. Since rattlesnakes are often well camouflaged and wait quietly for prey, they can be difficult to see. In the wild, rattlesnakes should be left alone as they present little potential hazard.
Rattlesnakes are an important part of the ecosystem, feeding on rodents, birds, and other small animals. Most rattlesnakes forage for prey in or near brushy or tall grass areas, rock outcrops, rodent burrows, around and under surface objects, and sometimes in the open.