Colorado is home to a variety of wildlife, including four different types of rattlesnakes. While encountering a rattlesnake can be a frightening experience, it’s important to remember that these snakes are generally non-aggressive and will only strike if they feel threatened.
In this article, we will take a closer look at the four types of rattlesnakes found in Colorado, including their unique appearance and personality. We will also provide tips on how to stay safe if you encounter a rattlesnake in the wild.’
4 Types Of Rattlesnakes In Colorado
The Desert Massasauga is one of the four types of rattlesnakes found in Colorado. This species inhabits xeric grasslands in western Texas to southeastern Arizona and occurs in disjunct populations in Colorado and Mexico.
In Colorado, they are found in southeast Colorado, particularly in southeastern Lincoln County. The Desert Massasauga is the smallest of the three subspecies of massasauga snakes and can grow up to 18 inches long. They are shy and not aggressive, and they rarely attack when they feel threatened.
Instead, they try to get away from the threat as quickly and quietly as possible. Sometimes, desert massasaugas will rattle, but because they have such small rattles, the sound is softer than larger rattlesnakes.
Some have described the desert massasauga’s rattle as sounding like crickets. Desert massasauga rattlesnakes are a Species of Special Concern in Colorado.
The Western Massasauga, also known as Sistrurus tergeminus, is a rattlesnake found in the southwestern plains of the United States and northern Mexico. Here are some key facts about the Western Massasauga:
– The Western Massasauga is a medium-sized pit viper that can grow up to 25 inches long.
– They have a light-brown base color and a row of dark brown blotches.
– The Western Massasauga is venomous and is considered a threat to life or limb.
– They are the smallest rattlesnake in Kansas and Nebraska.
– The Western Massasauga is characterized by a small pit.
– They are stout-bodied snakes with a triangular-shaped head and vertically elliptical pupils.
– The Western Massasauga occurs in wet meadows, marshes, and other wetland habitats.
It’s important to remember that the Western Massasauga, like all rattlesnakes, is generally non-aggressive and will only strike if they feel threatened. If you encounter a Western Massasauga, it’s best to give it a wide berth and keep several feet away from it.
The Prairie Rattlesnake, also known as Crotalus viridis, is the largest and most common rattlesnake in Colorado. Here are some key facts about the Prairie Rattlesnake:
– Prairie Rattlesnakes can grow up to 5 feet long.
– They have a triangular head and body covered in dark blotches which gradually turn into rings as they near the tail.
– They have elliptical (vertical) pupils, a single heat pit located between the eye and the nostril, and a triangular head.
– The background coloration is light gray or olive green, and the unmarked underside is light yellow.
Habitat and Distribution:
– Prairie Rattlesnakes are found in North America over much of the Great Plains, the eastern foothills and some intermontane valleys of the Rocky Mountains, from southwestern Canada through the United States to northern Mexico.
– They are found mostly in grasslands and prairies but also in woods, forests, brush, caves, rock ledges, and alongside streams.
– Prairie Rattlesnakes are primarily terrestrial, but occasionally climb in trees or bushes.
– They are found from near sea level up to over 9000 ft (2700 m) of altitude in Wyoming.
Behavior and Diet:
– Prairie Rattlesnakes are equipped with powerful venom, using about 20-55 percent of venom in one bite, and will defend themselves if threatened or injured.
– They are generally non-aggressive and will only strike if they feel threatened.
– Prairie Rattlesnakes are ambush predators and hunt prey until they are within striking distance. They prefer small mammals, such as ground squirrels, ground nesting birds, mice, rats, small rabbits, and prairie dogs.
– Prairie Rattlesnakes hibernate in winter and sometimes congregate in hibernation dens. Individuals often return to the same den year after year, migrating to hunting territories after waking.
It’s important to remember that while rattlesnakes are venomous, they are generally non-aggressive and will only strike if they feel threatened. If you encounter a Prairie Rattlesnake, it’s best to give it a wide berth and keep several feet away from it.
Midget Faded Rattlesnake
The Midget Faded Rattlesnake, also known as Crotalus concolor, is a pit viper species found in the western United States. Here are some key facts about the Midget Faded Rattlesnake:
– Midget Faded Rattlesnakes are small rattlesnakes known for their faded color pattern.
– They have a light brown or gray base color with a series of dark brown blotches down the back.
– They have a small rattle that is often difficult to hear.
– They can grow up to 24 inches in length.
Habitat and Distribution:
– Midget Faded Rattlesnakes are found in the United States in the Colorado and Green River basins, covering southwestern Wyoming, Utah east of long. 111° West (excluding the southeastern corner), and extreme west-central Colorado.
– They are found in a variety of habitats, including sagebrush, grasslands, and rocky outcrops.
Behavior and Diet:
– Midget Faded Rattlesnakes are venomous, and their venom is considered one of the most potent among Crotalid venoms.
– They are generally non-aggressive when left undisturbed.
– Midget Faded Rattlesnakes are ambush predators and feed primarily on small mammals, such as mice and ground squirrels.
It’s important to note that Midget Faded Rattlesnakes are a protected species in Wyoming, and it is illegal to catch or kill them without a permit for scientific or educational purposes. If you encounter a Midget Faded Rattlesnake, it’s best to give it a wide berth and keep several feet away from it.
1. Are all rattlesnakes in Colorado venomous?
Yes, all four types of rattlesnakes found in Colorado are venomous.
2. Are rattlesnakes aggressive?
Rattlesnakes are generally non-aggressive and will only strike if they feel threatened.
3. What should I do if I encounter a rattlesnake?
If you encounter a rattlesnake, it’s best to give it a wide berth and keep several feet away from it.
4. When are rattlesnakes most active in Colorado?
Rattlesnakes in Colorado are most active during the spring months. During this time, they may be out in the sun. When the heat of summer hits, rattlesnakes tend to come out only in the mornings and evenings when it is not quite as hot. In the winter, rattlesnakes go into brumation to escape the cold.
5. Where can I find rattlesnakes in Colorado?
Rattlesnakes can be found in a variety of habitats in Colorado, including grasslands, prairies, woodlands, and near rivers and lakes. They may also wander into human communities like parks and homes as they seek out shady places to escape the heat of the sun.
6. How can I stay safe around rattlesnakes in Colorado?
To stay safe around rattlesnakes in Colorado, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and watch where you step. Wear sturdy boots and long pants when hiking or walking in areas where rattlesnakes may be present. If you encounter a rattlesnake, give it a wide berth and keep several feet away from it.