South Carolina is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including several species of venomous snakes. Among these are three types of rattlesnakes: the Timber Rattlesnake, the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, and the Pygmy Rattlesnake.
Each of these species has its own unique characteristics and can be found in different habitats throughout the state.
In this article, we will explore each of these species in detail, including their physical characteristics, geographic range, and behavior. We will also discuss some important safety tips for those who may encounter these snakes in the wild.
3 Types Of Rattlesnakes In South Carolina
The Timber Rattlesnake, also known as the Canebrake Rattlesnake, is a species of venomous snake found in a variety of habitats in South Carolina. Like other pit vipers, the Timber Rattlesnake has a large, heavy-bodied appearance, with adults typically reaching lengths of 2.5-5 feet (.76-1.5 meters).
However, there are reports of Timber Rattlesnakes growing up to 7 feet (2 meters) long. The species has two different “forms” in South Carolinthe mountain form, often referred to as the Timber Rattlesnake, and the piedmont-coastal form, referred to as the Canebrake Rattlesnake.
These two forms of the species are different in their appearance and their life history. Timber Rattlesnakes live in a variety of habitats, including mountainous or hilly forests, hardwood or pine forests, swamps and river floodplains, lowland cane thickets, and agricultural fields.
In the warmer months, Timber Rattlesnakes are lone predators, and during the summer, gravid (pregnant) females seem to prefer open, rocky ledges where the temperatures are warmer. The species is not aggressive, but its venom is extremely strong.
As of a 2007 analysis, Timber Rattlesnakes are listed as a species of least concern on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List.
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
The Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake is the largest species of rattlesnake in the world and one of the heaviest known species of venomous snake.
Adults can grow up to 8 feet long, with a record length of 99 inches (251.5 cm). The species is found in the southeastern United States, including southeastern North Carolina, peninsular Florida, the Florida Keys, southern Alabama and Mississippi, and southeastern Louisiana.
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes are heavy-bodied snakes with a row of large dark diamonds with brown centers and cream borders down their backs. The ground color of their body is brownish, and their tail is usually a different shade of brown or gray, with the diamond pattern fading out or changing into dark bands.
The species is extremely beneficial to people because it preys on many species that are considered pests. However, many are unfortunately killed by people every year, and their habitat is being lost to agricultural development and urbanization.
The Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake is venomous, and its venom is called hemotoxin, which kills red blood cells and causes tissue damage. Although human deaths from rattlesnake bites are rare, the antivenom is available throughout its range.
The Pygmy Rattlesnake, also known as the Ground Rattler, is a small species of venomous snake found in the southeastern United States, including South Carolina. Here are some key characteristics of this species:
– Size: Most adult Pygmy Rattlesnakes are about 12-24 inches (30-61 cm) in total length, with a record length recorded of 31 inches (79 cm). This is a very small snake, but it is thick for its size.
– Appearance: The body color of the Pygmy Rattlesnake varies from light to dark gray, and a lengthwise row of black or charcoal blotches disrupts a reddish-brown stripe running down the middle of the back. Dark spots occur on the sides and line up with the dorsal blotches. The tail is slender and ends in a tiny rattle.
– Venom: This snake produces cytotoxic venom that is strongly hemorrhagic and tissue toxic, but devoid of any neurotoxins. The venom was the basis for the development of the drug eptifibatide, which is used to prevent clotting during a heart attack. The venom is somewhat different in that it contains substantial amounts of serotonin and related tryptamine compounds.
– Behavior: Pygmy Rattlesnakes rely heavily on superb camouflage to avoid detection. When frightened, these snakes often remain motionless and expand their ribs so their bodies appear flattened against the ground. However, if provoked they may attempt to escape or they may remain coiled and shake their tails, producing a rattling sound.
There are three subspecies of Pygmy Rattlesnake currently recognized. The Dusky Pygmy Rattlesnake is the most commonly encountered venomous snake in urbanized areas, often in gardens or brush piles.
1. Are all three types of rattlesnakes in South Carolina venomous?
Yes, all three types of rattlesnakes found in South Carolina are venomous. The Timber Rattlesnake, Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, and Pygmy Rattlesnake are all pit vipers and have venom that can be harmful to humans.
2. What should I do if I encounter a rattlesnake in South Carolina?
If you encounter a rattlesnake in South Carolina, it is important to give the snake plenty of space and avoid disturbing it. Do not attempt to handle or kill the snake, as this can be dangerous and may be illegal in some areas. If you are bitten by a rattlesnake, seek medical attention immediately.
3. Are rattlesnakes in South Carolina endangered?
The Timber Rattlesnake is listed as a species of least concern on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List, but its populations are declining in some areas due to habitat loss and human persecution. The Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake is listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, and its populations have declined significantly due to habitat loss, over-harvesting, and other factors. The Pygmy Rattlesnake is not currently listed as endangered, but its populations may be declining in some areas due to habitat loss.
4. What should I do if I am bitten by a rattlesnake in South Carolina?
If you are bitten by a rattlesnake in South Carolina, seek medical attention immediately. Do not attempt to suck out the venom or use a tourniquet, as these methods can be dangerous and may make the situation worse. Try to stay calm and keep the affected limb immobilized until you can receive medical treatment.
5. How can I avoid encountering rattlesnakes in South Carolina?
To avoid encountering rattlesnakes in South Carolina, it is important to be aware of your surroundings and watch where you step when walking in areas where snakes may be present. Wear long pants and boots when hiking or working in areas where snakes may be present, and avoid reaching into areas where you cannot see what is inside. If you encounter a snake, give it plenty of space and do not attempt to handle or kill it.