Do Rattlesnakes Nurse?

Rattlesnakes are one of the most interesting snakes. They’re very well-known because of the distinctive rattle at the end of their bodies. They’re also snakes that you won’t see commonly as pets because of how hard it is to domesticate them.

Snakes are a very foreign concept to many people and not many people know a lot about how snake babies survive after their birth. There isn’t a straightforward answer that will encompass how all snakes treat their young after they’re born, before rattlesnake the answer is very interesting.

Rattlesnakes are one of the snakes that do not leave their young as soon as they’re born. This may seem unquestionable to us because humans stay with their children for a lot of their beginning life. Many snakes are known to lay their eggs and leave, the rattlesnakes will defend their young until they’re able to take care of themselves. It’s very interesting how rattlesnakes take care of their young to ensure that they survive to take care of themselves.

What is the Rattlesnake

Rattlesnakes are venomous reptiles with triangular heads and large bodies. They are one of the most well-known North American snakes because of the rattle found on its tail. It’s unique rattle is made out of a series of interlocking scales and the snake adds to it each time it molts. Muscle contractions click the scales together resulting in the rattle that you hear.

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Rattlesnakes get their name from the rattle located at the end of their tail. The loud rattling can scare off predators and serve as a warning to people passing by. The rattlesnakes still often fall prey to hawks, weasels, kingsnakes and a variety of other species. Rattlesnakes are preyed upon when they are weak and immature. Also, a large amount of rattlesnakes are killed by humans. Rattlesnake populations in many areas by habitat destruction, poaching and its extermination; however, rattlesnakes are the highest contributor to snake bite injuries in North America. They don’t bite unless they’re provoked or threatened and if treated quickly the bites are not fatal.


Rattlesnakes are native to North and South America. They live in diverse habitats all the way from South Western Canada to Central Argentina. A lot of the species live in the American southwest and Mexico. There are four species that you can find east of the Mississippi River and two in South America. In the US, the states with the most species of rattlesnakes are Texas and Arizona.

Rattlesnakes are found in almost every type of habitat capable of supporting them as ectothermic vertebrates. Since their ectothermic vertebrates, this means they can’t regulate their own body temperature. They rely on their surroundings to keep their temperature in control. This is why they prefer a temperature range between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Some individual species of rattlesnakes have extremely specific habitat requirements. Some are only able to live within certain plant associations in a specific range of altitudes.

Most of the rattlesnake species live in open or rocky areas. These rocks give them coverage from predators and a lot of prey that live inside of the rocks. It also gives open basking areas where they can lay in the sun.

There are a lot of other habitats where you can find rattlesnakes and also that are very different. Prairies, marshes, deserts and forests are all places that you can find rattlesnakes in. If the temperature is right, you can find a rattlesnake in that habitat.


The average rattlesnake lives around 15 to 20 years but the majority of growth takes place when they’re younger. Many are born usually around 10 inches long. Most snakes are done growing after 3 or 4 years but others can continue to grow for 10 years. The rate of growth really depends on the snake’s species, environmental conditions and eating habits.

Most of the species mates during summer or fall, but some of the other parts of the species mate in the spring. There are even examples of some rattlesnakes to make during both the fall and the spring. Rattlesnakes have a specific mating pattern. The female 60 small amounts of pheromones which leave a trail. Male rattlesnakes will follow this trail using their tongues and the Jacobson’s organs in their mouth.

Once the males locate the female that was excreting the sex pheromones, the male will follow them for several days. This is not a behavior that’s uncommon during the mating season. They will frequently touch and rub her to stimulate her.

In some species, like timber rattlesnakes, the males fight each other during mating season. They fight to compete over females, and these fights are known as combat dances. What happens during combat dances, includes the males intertwining the bottom portion of their bodies. Their heads and necks will be held vertically and the larger male will usually drive to smaller ones away.

There are many different kinds of snakes and reptiles that lay eggs but the rattlesnakes give birth to live young after they carry the eggs inside of them. The female produces the eggs in her ovaries and they will pass through the body cavity into one of the oviducts in her body. The ova will arrange in a long chain in a coiled section of the oviduct.

Male rattlesnakes have sexual organs known as hemipenes that are located at the base of their tail. This will retract inside of their body when they’re not mating. The penis on the males rattlesnake is very similar to a human’s penis. Females can store semen for several months which allows them to make during the fall season. They can mate in fall and carry the sperm with them until the following spring when they allow it to fertilize the ova.

How Do Rattlesnakes Care for their Young

In the wild, many times the mothers abandon their young before or as soon as they’re mature. Rattlesnakes are very different. Rattlesnake mothers are very protective of their young and they stay with them and guard them until they have their first shed, which takes place about 2 weeks after they’re born. After the first shed, the young snakes will begin life on their own.


Rattlesnakes do not nurse their young. They cannot lactate because they’re a reptile. Most often, only mammals can lactate. Snakes don’t have mammary glands so they can’t produce milk for their offspring. The baby snake will live off of the yolk in their egg in the beginning of their life.

Survival of Young Rattlesnakes

When they’re first born, the mother rattlesnake is protective of their babies. They give birth in batches and they usually have about 8 to 10 babies. When the rattlesnakes are just born, they’re around 10 to 12 inches long. Just after they’re born, the mother will keep a protective eye on them.

The mother will also give off heat and shelter in the beginning. During the first few days, the mother will be darker than the baby snakes. They will absorb heat from external sources to keep their young snakes warm. This will help the young snakes develop and shed, and once they do this, they can hunt on their own. If they stay together they can conserve water and heat. The nutrients that are given to the rattlesnakes in the yolk is enough for their growth until they begin hunting on their own.

The mother also protects them from predators. They will live together in a group until the young ones can protect them size, poor eyesight, pit sensitivity, and inexperience. They are also unable to use the rattle so this doesn’t allow them to scare off predators. The mother guards the young snakes against the Predators and they will usually be deterred from attacking because of the large adult snake.

The mother snake will also physically hide the young ones. She usually lies on top of them or she might move them to safety when a predator attacks. She usually distracts the predators to let the younger snakes escape. The mother snake does not let the young snakes wander away from the group. The mother snake will block their path or gently tap them to keep them together.

The mother snake is very important to the young rattlesnakes’ survival. The mother rattlesnakes will live without food for a few weeks or months before giving birth. They will not leave their young wants to go out and hunt. They will wait for the young ones to develop enough to defend themselves before they get themselves food.

Some mother rattlesnakes will also help each other with their duties. If there is a pregnant rattlesnake in the group, she will take care of the young rattlesnakes while the other mother gets some rest. This means they recognize the needs of the group and are smart enough to be babysitters for other rattlesnakes children. Sometimes males are known to help take care of the young. They don’t actively care for them like the mother snake or exhibit protective behavior, but they do deter away some of the predators.


Your snake’s ability to defend itself also dictates how long it will get. There are many species that prey on newborn rattlesnakes, and these species are plentiful. Ravens, roadrunners, opossums, crows, raccoons, coyotes, king snakes, and Racers are all species that go after newborns. A lot of the predatory birds also prey on them, like shrikes, Jays and Kingfishers. A lot of species of ants in the genus formica are known to prey on the newborns also. Once they aren’t newborns anymore, a lot of the rattlesnakes that make it to their second year are heavily preyed on by larger predators like falcons, feral pigs and badgers.

The king snake is a constrictor that’s immune to the venom of rattlesnakes and other vipers, so the rattlesnakes have developed a way to defend themselves. The rattlesnakes form a large part of the snakes natural diet so rattlesnakes have a method of defending themselves when they sense the kingsnakes presence.

Once one is nearby they begin using some defensive postures. The rattlesnake begins keeping its head low to the ground to prevent the king snake from gaining a hold of it. The head of the first part of the rattlesnake to be ingested. The rattlesnake jerks his body while bridging his back upwards to form an elevated coil at the base of its tail. The coil is used to strike the king snake and is also used as a shield for the rattlesnake to protect its head from the king snake.

With these defensive measures, the rattlesnake is able to protect itself from prey. The newborn rattlesnakes don’t have these instincts yet, so they’re often eaten. If they become an adult, then it would reach the length that it’s supposed to be in maturity.

The rattlesnake mother’s do a great job of ensuring that their young reach the age to survive on their own. Many other snakes leave their eggs and low their young fend for themselves. Because of that, it’s very shocking that the mothers have a very close bond with their young in the beginning of their life. There are a lot of different facets to the relationship of rattlesnakes and their newborn babies.