Spotlight on the Western Rattlesnake (also called the Northern Pacific Rattlesnake)

Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Alliance  western_rattlesnake
Latin name: Crotalus oreganus
Federal Status: Threatened
Provincial Status: Blue Listed


The Western Rattlesnake can grow from .6 to 1.2 meters long. Two distinct characteristics of the rattlesnake are a triangular-shaped head and a thick tail ending in a series of rattles. The body colour is tan to pale green, with a series of dark brown to olive ovals along its back. The distinctive head has two holes located below the nostrils connecting to a heat sensing organ (heat pits) which are used to sense the presence of prey. The eyes have a distinctive “cat’s eye” vertical pupil.

Habitat and distribution

The Western Rattlesnake is found from Southern British Columbia to Mexico. In British Columbia, it is found in the dry interior valleys of the Fraser Canyon, Similkameen, Thompson, Okanagan, and Kettle Valleys. Rattlesnakes hibernate in communal dens on rocky hillsides. In the spring, they disperse through grasslands and forests to areas with rodent populations. Individual males occupy distinct summer hunting territories but return to the den or rocky areas for a few days while they shed their skins.

Food Habits

The rattlesnake likes to sit and wait for a mouse to move. It quickly strikes and injects venom into the mouse that both paralyzes it and has digestive enzymes which helps to break down the food.

Shake, Rattle and Bite

When a gopher snake feels threatened it will make a hissing or vibrating noise that may be designed to imitate a rattlesnake. This may also be where it got the name “bull snake”. Gopher snakes may even vibrate their tails and strike with a bite but are not venomous.

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