Inside a rattlesnakes rattle


Rattlesnakes are ambush predators, relying on staying hidden to get close to their prey. They don’t sport the bright colors that some venomous snakes use as a warning to predators.

Fortunately, rattlesnakes have an unmistakable warning, a loud buzz made to startle any aggressor and hopefully avoid having to bite.

If you hear the rattlesnake’s rattle here’s what to do: First, stop moving! You want to figure out which direction the sound is coming from. Once you do, slowly back away.

If you do get bitten, immobilize the area and don’t overly exert yourself. Immediately seek medical attention. You may need to be treated with antivenom.

DO NOT try to suck the venom out using your mouth or a suction device.

DO NOT try to capture the snake and stay clear of dead rattlesnakes, especially the head.

— How do rattlesnakes make that buzzing sound?
The rattlesnake’s rattle is made up of loosely interlocking segments made of keratin, the same strong fibrous protein in your fingernails. Each segment is held in place by the one in front and behind it, but the individual segments can move a bit. When the snake shakes its tail, it sends undulating waves down the length of the rattle, and they click against each other. It happens so fast that all you hear is a buzz and all you see is a blur.

— Why do rattlesnakes flick their tongue?
Like other snakes, rattlesnakes flick their tongues to gather odor particles suspended in liquid. The snake brings those scent molecules back to a special organ in the roof of their mouth called the vomeronasal organ or Jacobson’s organ. The organ detects pheromones originating from prey and other snakes.