The coil of their powerful, sleek bodies, the dance of the keratin in their rattles and that forbidding forked tongue all strike fear in creatures around them, from mice to birds to humans.
When it comes to humans, rattlesnakes are a bit timid. If they sense danger, they first try to stay motionless or to blend into the background. But the consequences can be deadly if a human steps on one or tries to catch it.
These reptiles can be found in backyards, mountains, prairies, deserts, even beaches.
Rattlesnakes are pit vipers. The loreal pit, located between their nostril and eye, detects heat emitted by prey or potential predators. When the snakes strike, they can inject venom through hollow fangs. Rattlesnakes are the largest of the venomous snakes found in the United States. The Western Diamondback can be more than 7 feet (2.1 meters) long.
Even the babies are potent. Rattlesnake young have both fangs and venom at birth. And they're resilient: They can go months without eating, and can live more than 20 years.
Whether you are in your backyard or anywhere rattlesnakes reside, think before you sit down, or stick your hand into leaves or brush. You don't want to mess with a group of rattlesnakes, known as a rhumba.
For more information on dangerous animals, take a bite out of the links on the next page.