Species Profile: Mojave Rattlesnake

27 fascinating facts about rattlesnakes 2 Species Profile: Mojave Rattlesnake
Mojave Rattlesnake

Stepping on any rattlesnake especially a mojave rattlesnake is the fear many American hikers have when they go hiking. To me, they are pretty much terrifying, and because of that, I wanted to know more about them. (Know your enemy, right?)

So, what exactly is a Mojave Rattlesnake? Mojave rattlesnakes are a very toxic rattlesnake that lives in the southern regions of the United States and some parts of Mexico. They are closely related to the diamondback rattlesnake but are not the same. Mojave rattlesnakes are known for being aggressive towards humans, and they carry some heavy ammunition inside their bodies.

These amazing snakes are curious creatures, that can be deadly. These guys are definitley worth the research, but don’t get too close. 

What is a Mojave Rattlesnake?

A Mojave rattlesnake is one of the different subspecies of rattlesnakes.  This snake is a pit viper and likes to hang out in rodent burrows and in other clever hiding spots.

Mojave rattlesnakes have a bad reputation for being particularly aggressive towards humans. They have the fangs to bite, and they are not afraid to use them. Within the classification of Mojave rattlesnakes, there are two recognized subspecies; the first being the Mojave rattlesnake and the second being the Huamantlan rattlesnake.

Mojave rattlesnakes are found from California to Texas and then down to Mexico. Huamantlan rattlesnakes, on the other hand, are found only in a few cities of Mexico:

  • Tlaxcla
  • Hidalgo
  • Puebla 
  • Veracruz

Where do Mojave Rattlesnakes Live? 

So, we know that the two different types of Mojave rattlesnakes live in different regions of the United States and Mexico, but what states can these dangerous snakes be found in? On top of that, where are they most likely to be found? What is their habitat like?

In the United States of America Mojave rattlesnakes are found in:

  • Most of Arizona 
  • Southern California 
  • All of Nevada 
  • South Western Utah
  • Southern New Mexico 
  • Parts of Texas

Mojave rattlesnakes are found all over the southwestern United States which can seem to be a little bit deceiving because they are named after the Mojave desert in California.

But these snakes cover a lot more ground than just the Mojave desert and get to cause problems in loads of places instead of just one.

The climate for Mojave rattlesnakes is hot and desert like. They don’t live in elevations higher than 5000 feet and lower than 500 feet. Living mainly on lower mountain slopes or higher in the high deserts.

Mojave rattlesnakes prefer to be around bushes than living in rocky areas. Within these desert areas Mojave rattlesnakes can most often be found in semi-grasslands, cactus scrub, desert wash, areas that are scattered with creosote bush, or mesquite trees.

Are Mojave Rattlesnakes Poisonous? 

It was mentioned before that these snakes are highly toxic, but if you’re like me when I read this you’re thinking, “Duh, aren’t all rattlesnakes venomous?”

The answer is yes, yes they are, but the real kicker with Mojave rattlesnakes is that their venom is unique. The venom from a Mojave rattlesnake is 16 times more toxic than other types of rattlesnakes.

Even though these little guys pack quite the devastating punch, luckily not all Mojave rattlesnakes carry the same type of venom. There are two types of venom that are found inside Mojave rattlesnakes, Type A and Type B.

They cause very different effects on the bodies of their victims and they have different potencies. Below is a table that explains the differences between these two strands of venom.

Type A Mojave Rattlesnake VenomType A Venom is called the Mojave toxin and is extremely neurotoxic and effects the respiratory system and the nervous system of its bite victim. 
This toxin is what makes the Mojave rattlesnake the most toxic rattlesnake of all the rattlesnakes.
Type B Mojave Rattlesnake VenomType B venom is the second strand of venom that is possible for Mojave rattlesnakes to have. This strand is about 10 percent less potent than Type A and is a hemotoxin instead of neurotoxin. This means that Type B toxins start to destroy the flesh to around the wound of the bite. Hemotoxic toxins are what is found in most rattlesnakes. 

Because there are two different options for the types of venom found in Mojave rattlesnakes, this creates a third type of venom Mojave rattlesnakes can be born with. That third type is a mixture of Type A and Type B.

Surprisingly, receiving a bite from a Mojave rattlesnake is not as painful as most snakebites, but they are just as deadly, if not more deadly. So, it is always best to go to the hospital immediately after being bitten, so that the doctors can treat you.

Despite popular belief, fatalities from snakes bites are uncommon because of the wide variety of snake antivenoms that are available.

What do Mojave Rattlesnakes look like?

Mojave rattlesnakes are a medium-sized rattlesnake and only grow to be about 2-4 feet in length. They have a diamond pattern on their backs, and because such, are often confused with diamondback rattlesnakes.

The main difference though is that the Mojave rattlesnakes’ – unlike diamondback rattlesnakes – diamond pattern fades into stripes at the bottom of their tail right before their rattler. These stripes tend to be black and white with the white being thicker than the black.

The Mojave rattlesnakes that live in lower elevations tend to be a brownish or even yellowish color, but Mojave rattlesnakes that are found in the higher regions are more of a grayish green or an olive green color. As for the shape of their bodies Mojave rattlesnakes have very triangular heads. 

How do Mojave Rattlesnakes Inject Their Venom? 

We know that Mojave rattlesnakes are very venomous and that their bites don’t hurt as much as normal, so the question then becomes, “How do they inject their venom?”

Mojave rattlesnakes, like most pit vipers, have two retractable fangs that are hollow and are connected to two glands that are filled with and produce their venom. These glands are actually in the rattlesnakes’ checks.

When a Mojave rattlesnake bites its victim, its fangs unfold and its venom is injected into the body through the puncture wounds it causes. the venom starts affecting around the puncture wounds and can then spread through the body.

Mojave rattlesnakes that have hemotoxic properties in their venom use this to start helping with the digestive process and immobilizing their prey by causing internal bleeding and tissue decay.

Mojave rattlesnakes that have neurotoxins in their venom use their venom to paralyze their prey and even stop them from breathing. If the bitten prey of either of these types of venom happens to move away before it dies the Mojave rattlesnake can follow/find it through its sense of smell.

What do Mojave Rattlesnakes Eat? 

All Mojave rattlesnakes, no matter what their venom type is, will only hunt prey that is big enough for them to swallow whole and be able to digest. The typical diet for a Mojave rattlesnake consists of:

  • Kangaroo Rats 
  • Other small rodents 
  • And lizards 

These are the most common food source for Mojave rattlesnakes, although these rattlers have been known to eat other small snakes, toads, and even insects when needed.

Mojave rattlesnakes are nocturnal and like to be on the move at night. They typically go out hunting and look for their prey hiding in their holes.

Another way that these rattlesnakes hunt is they find an active rodent burrow and then lie in wait for their prey to come to them.  They have gotten especially skilled at their hunting skills and habits.

How do Mojave Snakes Reproduce?

Mojave snakes are a little unique in the fact that they hibernate during the winter. They are not the only snakes that do this, but it isn’t a popular quality in a lot of snakes.

Because the Mojave rattlesnake hibernates during the winter it makes their mating and reproduction cycle different than other snakes.

The first step to reproduction for Mojave rattlesnakes is finding a mate. Mojave rattlesnakes mate during the summer, so when the female rattler is ready her body produces pheromones that leave a trail as she moves.

A male picking up on her scent will follow the pheromones until he finds the female responsible. Often two male rattlesnakes will try to breed with a female and will engage each other in a very detailed combat dance.

The winner of the dance off will then slither to be side by side with the female Mojave rattlesnake, and make sure that his cloaca is even with hers. After that, the mating begins and the male sticks his two hemipenes in the female’s cloaca and releases his sperm. This can take a couple of hours. 

After a female has been inseminated she actually holds the male’s sperm inside her all winter. After she comes out of hibernation in the spring the sperm is activated and the female can become pregnant. Most female rattlesnakes in general only reproduce about once every two years.

Female Mojave rattlesnakes are not like most other rattlesnakes because they are ovoviviparous. This means that they have eggs but instead of laying them unhatched the female will actually carry them around inside her until they hatch; then she will give live birth to her hatchlings.

Mojave rattlesnakes are very much so like other snakes in the sense that their mothering instincts go as far as to give birth and nothing more. After giving birth to her hatchling the Mojave rattlesnake mother leaves them to fend for themselves and find their own food.

Mojave Rattlesnake Babies 

Most people hear that being abandoned at childbirth is sad, but for most Mojave rattlesnakes this is all they have ever known and is not a stumbling block for them. After being set free after birth, the baby Mojave rattlesnakes go off on their own to find food and have their first meal.

Following their natural instincts to their prey, they bite their very first victim and inject their venom for the very first time. Don’t worry about the baby Mojave rattlesnake losing their meal because it is their first bite; baby Mojave rattlesnakes have as much venom in their bites as do adult Mojave rattlesnakes.

Having no parental guidance, these little rattlers grow up fast. At about one to two weeks a baby Mojave rattlesnake can expect to shed its skin for the first time. Doing so begins to create the little Mojave rattlesnake’s rattler.

The first shed will create the button like beginnings of its rattler that then forms the base for all consecutive buttons. Each time these baby rattlers shed they will add a new button on their tail; this process doesn’t stop until the Mojave rattlesnake has died.

Unlike mammals and birds, Mojave rattlesnakes never stop growing. Once these baby Mojave rattlesnakes grow to be 4-6 years old for males and 7-13 years old for females, they have finally reached sexual maturity and can start reproducing their own offspring. Most Mojave rattlesnakes live to be about 25 years old.

What are the Differences Between a Mojave Rattlesnake and a Diamondback Rattle Snake?

As was mentioned before, a lot of people can confuse and mix up Mojave rattlesnakes with diamondback rattlesnakes. They do this mainly because of looks, but I have compiled a list that goes through most of their major differences. 

  • Mojave rattlesnakes while having the typical diamond pattern on their back that confuses them with diamondback rattlesnakes their pattern fades towards the bottom of their tails and they have more greenish tones. 
  • Diamondback rattlesnakes have more of a reddish or pinkish tone that can sometimes be yellow or brownish.  
  • Mojave rattlesnakes have two to three large scales that sit in-between its eyes while the diamondback rattlesnake does not. 
  • Diamondback rattlesnakes have a black strip that goes from the eye to the mouth that is not found on Mojave rattlesnakes. 
  • Mojave rattlesnakes get to be about 2-4 feet long. 
  • Diamondback rattlesnakes get to be around 2-7 feet long and as such are much much bigger that Mojave rattlesnakes.

There are other differences between Mojave rattlesnakes and diamondback rattlesnakes other than looks. The places they live stand as a strong example.

While some of their habitats overlap diamondback rattlesnakes can be found all over Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma, which are places where you cannot find any Mojave Rattlesnakes.

The last and biggest difference is their venom and their aggression. Diamondbacks aren’t very aggressive whereas Mojave rattlesnakes are extremely aggressive and are more likely to bite humans.

Mojave rattlesnakes’ venom is also far more dangerous than that of the diamondback rattlesnake. You should obviously seek medical attention if you are bitten by a diamondback rattlesnake but their venom probably won’t kill you.

Being bit by a Mojave rattlesnake could very easily kill you and so medical attention is needed immediately.

Related Questions

What are the Symptoms of a Mojave Rattlesnake? The symptoms of a Mojave rattlesnake bite are first having the puncture wounds. Then there will be pain tingling and burning around the wound. The area of the bite will start to swell and bruise. There will then be numbness and weakness with some added lightheadedness, followed closely with a hard time breathing.

Can a Baby Mojave Rattlesnake Bite Kill You? Although it is said that the bite of an adult Mojave rattlesnake is worse than of a baby, they are both serious and need medical attention. They can both cause serious problems and even death. 

What are the Top Ten Most Venomous Snakes in the United States? The top ten most venomous snakes in the United States are as follows:

  1. The Cotton mouth 
  2. Mojave rattlesnake
  3. Timber rattlesnake 
  4. Black diamond rattlesnake 
  5. Tiger rattlesnake 
  6. Copperhead 
  7. Eastern coral snake 
  8. Western diamondback rattlesnake 
  9. Eastern diamondback rattlesnake 
  10. Prairie rattlesnake