When food is scarce, the heavy-bodied Western diamondback rattlesnake can go without food for up to two years. But it moves its ribs along the ground, distinguishing vibrations, looking for the perfect place to score a meal. Thermal pits on its face detect heat, and its forked tongue picks up the tiniest of smells. Then the rattlesnake coils its camouflaged body beneath a bush, waiting patiently for just the right moment.
The Western diamondback is an ambush predator, relying on the element of surprise to capture its next meal. As prey enters its killing zone, the snake transforms from dormant to deadly. In the blink of an eye, the Western diamondback can strike at the speed of six feet per second, one of the fastest known movements made by an animal with a backbone.
Even though this serpent has a limited range in the American southwest, this rattler species accounts for almost all human snakebite deaths in the entire country. But here’s another reality: In the United States, you’re more likely to be struck by lightning than die from a rattlesnake bite.
Check out this gallery of rattlesnake pictures.
Follow filmmakers as they journey across Southern California in search of the most lethal bite in the North America – Tune into Rattler: Behind the Fangs TONIGHT at 10 PM et/pt on Nat Geo Wild!