Sidewinder Rattlesnake Fact File
The sidewinder is unique among rattlesnakes due to the the horn like scales which sit above the eyes. These horns act as a sunshade for the eyes.
At the end of the tail is a rattle. This rattle has segments equal to the number of sheds which the snake has completed.
Across the body they may be colored light-brown, grey or cream to help blend in with their environment. This coloration varies across their habitats. Their body features patterns and markings which are poorly defined.
The head is flattened and triangular in shape. Their body is wide which helps to stop them sinking in to the sand.
Their body measures between 45 and 80cm (18-32in) long with an average weight of 250g (8.8oz). Females tend to be smaller than the males.
During spring and summer they will be primarily focused on hunting mammals as they are active by night while in cooler weather they are active by day and focus on lizards.
To subdue their prey they use venom injected from their fangs. The animal may escape but the sidewinder will use its heat-sensing pits to locate it.
As a means of attracting prey they dig themselves in to the ground and twitch their tail to act as a lure.
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North America is the native home of the sidewinder. Here they can be found throughout the south-west of the United States and down in to Mexico. In the United States their range covers parts of California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona.
They make their home in the deserts of this area. Most of these areas feature fine, windblown sand and their method of locomotion helps them to move across this. They may also live on sparsely vegetated sand dunes.
Mating takes place in the spring. Males will fight one another at the start of the breeding season for mating rights. Males are almost constantly on the move during mating season to find potential mates.
Both males and females increase their food intake ahead of mating to provide the energy required for mating and the production of young.
The female will give birth to her young in late summer. Each clutch can include between six and twelve individuals. The sidewinder gives birth to live young.
Young will disperse after they complete their first shed. Their skin is shed regularly as they grow. Females may protect the young until they disperse.
Sexual maturity is reached by three years old.
During periods of inactivity they will rest in burrows or under bushes. They may partially bury their their body in the sand when it is warm.
When hibernating they will enter the burrows of rodents and tortoises.
Their name comes from their unique form of locomotion. They will slide their body across the sand in a diagonal path. These movements create their characteristic parallel tracks. This form of movement makes them the fastest moving of the rattlesnakes.
These animals sit in wait under shrubs before launching out at prey.
Predators and Threats
Natural predators of the sidewinder include the coyote, larger snake species and birds of prey such as red-tailed hawks.
Small numbers may collected to kept as pets. They are also the victim of vehicle strikes.
Due to the horns above the eye they are also known as the horned rattlesnake.
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Jackson, T.,2011. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Animals, Birds & Fish of North America. 1st ed. Leicestershire: Lorenz Books
Frost, D.R., Hammerson, G.A. & Gadsden, H. 2007. Crotalus cerastes. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2007:e.T64315A12764960. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2007.RLTS.T64315A12764960.en.
Downloaded on 19 February 2021.
Zoo Atlanta. 2021. Sidewinder – Zoo Atlanta. [online] Available at: <https://zooatlanta.org/animal/colorado-desert-sidewinder/> [Accessed 19 February 2021].
Desertmuseum.org. 2021. Rattlesnakes. [online] Available at: <https://www.desertmuseum.org/books/nhsd_rattlesnakes3.php> [Accessed 19 February 2021].
Tucsonherpsociety.org. 2021. Sidewinder (Crotalus cerastes). [online] Available at: <https://tucsonherpsociety.org/amphibians-reptiles/snakes/sidewinder/> [Accessed 19 February 2021].
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