What’s Inside a Rattlesnake’s Rattle?

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This was a popular post on the old Andi’s blog, way back in 2008, with over 6,300 views. I’m not sure why. I guess nobody knows what’s inside a rattlesnake’s “rattle.” Bethany (Horse Girl) asked the original “What’s inside a rattlesnake’s rattle?” question. This post has been completely revised and includes a true-life video from Mrs. M’s family in “Andi” country plus a bonus video about Cory’s newest pet snake “Clyde,” featured in Dangerous Decision.

Here is everything you ever wanted to know (or not!) about a rattlesnake’s rattle. By now, I have had a few encounters with rattlesnakes and their rattles. When I was six, Mitch killed a whopper of a rattler. I brought the rattle to school. That was not a good idea. I scared Melinda’s friend half to death, and then Melinda yelled at me. Not a good way to start your very first day of school.

Then my friend Jenny nearly got bit by a snake on our trip into the Sierras. If it wasn’t for Patches, our horse, she might have been seriously injured. Patches killed the snake, however, and we used it later to surprise a pretty bad hombre who was keeping us hostage up at an old shack.

More recently, Riley was teaching me to shoot (he had much better luck than Chad ever had), and I end up shooting a rattlesnake, almost by accident. (See “The Shooting Lesson” in the new Yosemite at Last: And Other Tales from Memory Creek Ranch, coming March 2022). Then, two years later, my most terrifying experience with a rattlesnake of all and an unlikely hero. (“All in a Day’s Work,” Stranger in the Glade: And More Tales from Memory Creek Ranch.) Yes, that’s plenty of rattles and rattlesnakes for me.

Here’s the scoop on rattles. A baby rattlesnake is hatched with a “pre-button” at the end of its tail. Then, when the snake sheds its old skin as it grows (every few months), the old, dried-up skin gets caught on that button at the tip of its tail, and the segment stays behind. Each time the snake sheds its skin, a new segment is added, and the rattle gets longer and louder. The segments whacking against each other creates the sound. The tail rattles so fast the sound is a buzz rather than a dry rattling.

You would think you could tell how old a snake is by counting the rattle segments, but that is not true. Sometimes, they rattles become brittle and break off. And since a snake can shed more than once a year, it could gain segments faster. You just never know for sure about its age. (Not that I care how old a rattlesnake is, by the way, but some believe that an older rattlesnake’s bite is not as deadly as a young snake’s. I figure they both are very bad and we should stay away from them.)

Another creepy “fun fact” about snakes is that they are just as deadly after they are killed as before. They twitch and jerk around in muscle spasms, and if their fangs grab you, you can still be poisoned. You can see a writhing snake that looks alive (but is really dead) in the video below.

Special note from Mrs. M: This 1 minute video of a real-life rattlesnake in the foothills of California! Way too close to home since this is the setting for Memory Creek Ranch, where Mrs. M’s family lives, plays, and . . . kills rattlesnakes.

Below is a map showing where the Northern Pacific Rattlesnake hangs out. Jenny Grant lives in western Washington state, near the body of water called Puget Sound (not by the ocean). Notice there is no “brown” (rattlesnake habitat) on the western side of the state of Washington. That is why Jenny was unfamiliar with them.

You can see why I am more than familiar with them. They are everywhere in California (shudder). Do you live in Northern Pacific rattlesnake country?

A rattlesnake’s worst enemy: a king snake

Published by Andi Carter

I'm the main character in the Circle C Adventures series. I live on a huge cattle ranch in 1880s California. These are my adventures.

38 thoughts on “What’s Inside a Rattlesnake’s Rattle?

  1. Oh yeah, where I live in GA there are a whole bunch of rattlesnakes, copperheads, water moccasins, and corals. There are probably much more that I don’t know about.😬😝
    – Katie Moen

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Yeah, in Idaho there is a lot of rattlesnakes but
    I haven’t seen any alive yet! There are also a lot
    of wild cats and cougars, and I have seen those.😬
    That is a really cool video, and I do of envy any of
    those people.πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing this!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah that must be really nice to not have any snakes there.
      We have a lot of snow here too. Do you ski or snowboard?
      I snowboard and that makes the snow a lot more fun!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Oh we have snakes just not rattlesnakes lol!
        I ski!!
        My brother snowboards though and it looks like a lot of fun!
        It does make the snow more fun!
        I do enjoy the snow though it makes barn chores a little harder haha

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh yes it does make feeding the cows an horses a
        little harder. And that makes a lot more since that
        you do have some snakes just not rattlers.πŸ˜‹

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve heard plenty of stories about rattlers. The ranch I work on had a lot of them last year, because of a fire the previous year. The babies can’t control how much venom they inject into their prey. So it could be double the venom the adults inject or it could be half.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I live in Central Oregon…and we have rattlesnakes! We were walking in our community land, and my brother almost stepped on a baby one! The rock formation we were near had to be blasted once with dynamite, just to get rid of the rattlers. Another one was killed on the hill above our house, but I must say…none of them were ever THAT big!!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I think they are cute, and God made them. Their rattles are super cool. I think they are an amazing creation. I never seen one in the wild though (I hope to)! πŸ˜€

        Liked by 2 people

      2. that is true that God made them. I just think that I would not like to have one in front of me. 😊πŸ€ͺ


      1. I think it sounds good. My dad had it and says it kind of tasted like chicken. He can’t remember if I did or not. If I did, I was too little to remember it.
        Definitely on my bucket list. πŸ™‚


  5. In Arizona (where I lived until December) my dad spotted two pink rattlesnakes that are really rare while hiking a mountain by his work. I am not sure if we have them in Iowa. Love the new post!❀

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I like playing around with snakes, but I think I’d keep my distance from rattlesnakes πŸ˜€
    Where I live in western Canada, we don’t have any rattlesnakes, but once in a while we’ll find a garter snake, which I also enjoy playing with.


  7. We don’t have any snakes here in New Zealand.
    But I reckon it would be fun to play with one. Not a rattlesnake though πŸ™‚


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