Of all the venomous snakes found in North Carolina, the eastern diamondback rattlesnake is probably the most imposing. Growing to lengths of up to eight feet and thick as your arm, the eastern diamondback rattlesnake looks the part of the most dangerous snake in North America. Even though the snake is only found in the coastal plain, it is still the most feared snake in NC. Oddly, the eastern diamondback rattlesnake deserves no such fear, but it does demand respect and space. Given the opportunity, the eastern diamondback will coil up and back away slowly. As long as you do not surprise the snake, or try to mess with it, it is not likely that you will get bitten.
The eastern diamondback is the largest venomous snake in North America. It is easy to identify in most cases because of the distinctive diamond shaped pattern that runs the length of its body. Also, the eastern diamondback rattlesnake has a very distinctive head and face. The head is diamond shaped like most pit vipers, and it has the two heat sensing “infrared” pits that are housed on either side of the snout. Also, the eastern diamondback has a very unique facial mask that somewhat resembles a raccoon. It has two black stripes from either eye to the mouth that is usually trimmed in yellow. The underside of the eastern is generally yellowish in color with grey blotches. Then of course, there is the large rattle.
One note about the eastern diamondback that one may consider: The eastern diamondback, like all rattlesnakes, sometimes loses their rattle. It can happen in battle, or due to injury. That said, you should not use the rattle as the only means of identifying a rattlesnake. If it is a snake in the wild, you should keep your distance. Many people are bitten because they “think” that the snake is harmless.
The eastern diamondback rattlesnake prefers piney woodlands and scrub, and loves to eat rabbits. They have a very potent venom that can debilitate most any animal in the United States. They reserve their venom, however, for animals that they are threatened by or that they can eat. The swallow their prey whole, and use their long fangs and powerful stomach muscles to ease the prey down their throat.
While the eastern diamondback rattlesnake is quite capable of killing a human being, they are not evil. They do not want to waste their venom on us humans when they can save it for their next savory rabbit. That said, if you are careful and do not approach or surprise this snake, you have nothing to fear. The eastern diamondback rattlesnake is a vital part of our ecosystem as they keep not only the rabbit population in check, but vermin such as mice and rats as well. If you encounter one of these supreme reptiles, contact your local wildlife control immediately and have the snake removed to a safer location. Do not attempt to kill them as this is another of the most common ways people get bitten.