Rattlesnakes give birth to lie young. They are ovoviviparous snakes. This means that they carry their eggs inside their bodies, and that is where the eggs remain while the eggs incubate.
Rattlesnakes are vipers, and most vipers do not lay eggs. Instead, the eggs incubate inside the mother. Some Asian pit vipers, however, lay eggs.
In herpetology, all New World pit vipers give birth except the Bushmaster viper, which lays eggs.
How Many Young does a Rattlesnake Give Birth to?
Typically, rattlesnakes give birth to about eight and 15 babies. These baby rattlesnakes are between eight and ten inches long. Some are between six and 12 inches. It all depends on the species.
The western diamondback rattlesnake, for example, has a clutch of 15 babies. The babies will stay with the mother for about ten days. After that, they will shed their skin for the first time, and then they will spread across the area.
Some rattlesnakes nurse their brood, but this is rare. Scientists are still figuring out how and why this is happening to some species of snakes.
Are Baby Rattlesnakes More Venomous?
Baby rattlesnakes are not more venomous than adults. It is a myth. This myth comes from the fact that baby rattlesnakes have a different diet.
As such, they produce venom that is more toxic than adults. But, here is the thing: the difference in toxicity does not have a high variation so much as to cause a big difference in the effect.
It is like saying that brown sugar is healthier than white sugar. While it is true, a human would have to consume a sack of brown sugar for the body to feel the difference.
Another thing the people say is that baby rattlesnakes do not know how to control their venom release. So people say that the baby snake just pushed venom without much care. Because of that, they pose more danger in terms of venom toxicity.
Again, it is not true. Scientists have already done venom metering to prove this myth wrong. The same principle applies to all snakes. Baby snakes do not have more toxicity than adults.
Related Article: Can Rattlesnakes Jump?
What Time of Year do Rattlesnakes Give Birth?
The general birthing season of rattlesnakes is between late summer and early fall. This season lies sometime between August and October.
The size of the baby rattlesnake should give a person a clue as to how old it is. A baby rattlesnake between four and seven inches long is a newborn.
If the rattlesnake is already about a foot long, it was likely born a year ago. So, if a rattlesnake is born in August, it means that the parents mated about three months ago.
What is the Lifespan of a Rattlesnake?
In the wild, it is not unusual for a rattlesnake to live for 25 years. In captivity, they can live for 30 plus years. Some captive rattlesnakes live for as long as 37 years.
After birth, it can take four to six years to become sexually mature. Females take longer, between seven and 13 years.
The sexual maturity of rattlesnakes varies by species. Once they reach adulthood, they can live for a long time. Although they have predators, they are not easy prey.
How Do Rattlesnakes Reproduce?
Rattlesnakes reproduce once every three years, during summer or fall. The females secrete pheromones to let the males know they are ready, and the male rattlesnakes typically fight over the females.
Rattlesnakes mate during the summer or fall. Since there are 33 rattlesnake species, not everyone breeds at the same time of year. Some species mate only in the spring.
During mating season, female rattlesnakes secrete sex pheromones. This secretion leaves a scent trail for males to follow. The males use their tongues to smell the scent. They also use Jacobson’s organs to guide them.
Once both the male and female meet, they spend several days together. The male typically follows the female rattlesnake. The male would touch the female in an attempt to stimulate her into reproduction.
For some species, the males fight over the female. An example of this species is the timber rattlesnake. Some species outside the viper family also do this.
In the scientific community, they call it the combat dance. Although the combat dances do not always end up in death, it is typical for the smaller snake to flee.
It takes several years for the rattlesnakes to mature. Generally speaking, they reproduce only once every three years.
What is an Ovoviviparous Rattlesnake?
Rattlesnakes are ovoviviparous, which means that they do not lay eggs. A snake that does lay eggs is known as an oviparous snake.
Males deposit sperm into the mother rattlesnake. From here, the female can store the sperm for months. It means that they can mate in the fall but only fertilize the egg in the spring.
When the rattlesnake gets pregnant, they carry the eggs inside. First, the eggs are in the mother’s ovaries, and then they pass through another cavity in the mother’s body.
After this, the ova are arranged. They look like a continuous chain in a coiled section of the oviduct. This section in the oviduct is what scientists call the tuba.
Do Rattlesnakes Stay With Their Babies?
Some rattlesnakes stay with their young, though only for a short time. The western diamondback rattlesnake stays with the young for seven days. Some will stay with their babies for ten days. Mother rattlesnakes do not feed their young.
Once the babies shed their skin, they start moving out. During this period, these baby snakes will scatter. They are trying to figure out how to live. They might show up in houses, plants, and shaded areas.
Rattlesnakes are born with a rattle segment, not a pointed tail. The rattle grows as the rattlesnake matures.
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Summary: Do Rattlesnakes Give Live Birth or Lay Eggs?
Rattlesnakes do not lay eggs. Instead, they give birth to babies. The baby rattlesnakes are anywhere between eight and ten inches long when they are born.
Some species can give birth to a one-foot baby. Rattlesnakes reproduce once in three years, and they give birth to at least eight babies.
Not all rattlesnakes stay with their young, but most do. Some species have a maternal behavior similar to mammals in which they nurse their young.
Stuart is the editor of Fauna Facts. He edits our writers’ work as well as contributing his own content. Stuart is passionate about sustainable farming and animal welfare and has written extensively on cows and geese for the site.