The eastern diamondback rattlesnake is a snake species from the pit viper family, and they are primarily located in the southeastern part of the United States. They are considered the largest member of the rattlesnake family and one of the larger snakes in the United States. On average, they are generally around 6 feet long (1.8 meters), but there have been reports of specimens stretching over 7 feet (2.1 meters). These snakes have a brownish body with distinctive dark, diamond-shaped markings running down their backs. The eastern diamondback has a reputation for being dangerously venomous, and because of this, it is often hunted and killed in large numbers, which has lessened its population.
When hunting, the eastern diamondback rattlesnake generally focuses on small animals like squirrels and other rodents. These snakes will also occasionally catch birds, although this is less common. The snakes typically hunt using ambush-based tactics, usually waiting silently for prey to move into their strike zone.
Eastern diamondbacks generally prefer to live in dry places, and most of their habitat is in brush-covered or wooded areas. During the winter, they will generally hibernate underground. In most cases, they take over nests of other animals for hibernation. The kinds of nests they use will vary depending on what burrowing animals live in the particular area.
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These snakes have several abilities that aid them when hunting. For one thing, their color pattern makes them very hard to see against many common outdoor backgrounds. For example, it can be very difficult to spot an eastern diamondback rattlesnake when it is crawling among dead leaves. These snakes also have pits on their heads that can function as a kind of heat vision. This generally helps them detect any living thing that comes close to them.
The venom of the eastern diamondback rattlesnake attacks both a person's nervous system and his tissue. When people are bitten by a diamondback, they may experience a great deal of pain and eventually may become very ill. The bite can kill a man without treatment, although antivenin is generally sufficient to save lives. Some people who wait too long for treatment can suffer terrible tissue damage, and there have even been cases where amputations have been necessary.
In some parts of the country, there is a belief that letting a rattlesnake live is immoral because it might potentially bite someone in the future. In these areas, people who believe this will sometimes kill any rattlesnake they encounter. This practice has hurt the population numbers of these snakes, and many conservationists are trying to educate people about the ecological importance of the rattlesnake as a way to reduce this behavior.