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What Do Rattlesnakes Eat?

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Rattlesnakes are terrifying creatures.  Their most identifiable feature is the rattle that is found at the tip of their tails. They use this rattle to indicate their presence and to ward off intruders that make them feel threatened.

These predatory venomous snakes are part of the Crotaline family and there are over 65 species of rattlesnake that have been identified.

Rattlesnakes are often targeted by humans because they are so dangerous and, more importantly, because many humans harvest their rattles to sell these items on black markets.  In many regions, their populations have become severely threatened.

It is important to learn more about these natural predators because if you understand them better, you will find that there is no need to kill them.  They will only lash out and bite if they are provoked or threatened and their bites are seldom fatal.

What Do Rattlesnakes Eat?

Rattlesnakes are carnivore animals.  They hunt a variety of animals.  In most cases, they lie and wait for prey to pass by before striking.  They might also hunt for prey by visiting holes in the ground.  Rattlesnakes do not strangle their food.  Instead, they lash out, bite their prey, and allow the venom to do the killing for them.  If a rattlesnake bites prey, they can easily track their food by following the scent of their venom.

Here is a quick look at the most common food these snakes love to eat.

Small Mammals

Rattlesnakes love to hunt and catch small mammals.  They enjoy eating a variety of animals such as mice, rats, bunnies, kittens, hamsters, moles, mongoose, and squirrels.  In most cases, rattlesnakes simply hide away and wait for their prey to pass by before striking.  Their bodies are camouflaged and they keep their rattlers quiet while hunting for prey.

Rattlesnakes might also seek out their prey.  They will visit the holes of these small mammals and will attack their prey right in their burrows.

Birds And Eggs

Rattlesnakes will also hunt and eat birds.  They usually wait for a bird to pass by before lashing out to bite it.  These snakes will consume any small bird species that cross their path.  They also enjoy visiting the nests of birds to eat their eggs.  Rattlesnakes rarely climb trees but they can do it if they are desperate for a bite to eat.


These snakes will also catch and eat a variety of other reptiles.  They eat all sorts of lizards and can also sometimes eat other snakes.  Rattlesnakes have also been documented to catch and eat small crocodiles.


Amphibians such as frogs, toads, salamanders, newts, and caecilians are also good food sources for rattlesnakes that live close to water sources or that visit water sources for drinking.


These snakes might also consume various insect types.  It is especially young or small rattlesnakes that focus on insects.  They will eat insects like grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, ants, wasps, cockroaches, termites, and many others they find crawling or hopping about.


These snakes do not need a lot of water to survive.  But they do need to consume at least their body weight in water every year to stay hydrated.  To drink water, they submerge their heads and ingest the water by opening their jaws.  When their jaws open, they can suck in water.

Diet Variations

These snakes do not have too many diet variations.  They usually focus on consuming smaller animals and insects.  They might however occasionally attack and eat other snakes.

How to Feed Rattlesnakes

Rattlesnakes are very dangerous. It is unwise to keep one in your back yard and to feed it.  But if you do want to keep a rattlesnake as a pet, you should at the very least get some training in snake handling.  Snake handlers usually feed these snakes by adding food sources such as small mice to their cage.  Some rattlesnakes are also taught to take carrion meat by moving these foods in front of them.

What Do Rattlesnakes Eat In The Wild?

In the wild, rattlesnakes hunt for all sorts of prey such as small animals and insects that they find living in their natural environment.  They also go hunting for food and will visit the burrows of small animals in search of something to eat.

What Do Rattlesnakes Eat in Captivity?

In zoos, rattlesnakes are usually fed by offering them mice, small rabbits, and insects.  They prefer live prey but are also taught to feed pre-killed rodents or frozen foods.  Feeding these snakes on pre-killed foods prevents a lot of thrashing about in their cages which gives visitors peace of mind.

What do Baby Rattlesnakes Eat?

Baby rattlesnakes are quite dangerous because they are a lot more unpredictable and they do not have rattlers at the end of their tails to warn you of their presence just yet.  These snakes mostly feed on reptiles and insects such as small lizards and grasshoppers.  Baby rattlers have more neurotoxins in their venom compared to adults so they can track down prey easily.

How Much Do Rattlesnakes Eat?

Smaller rattlers eat less compared to larger snakes but they also require food more frequently.  A large mouse should be enough to keep most adult rattlesnake species content for two weeks. Larger snakes might require about two to three mice to keep them full.

How Often Do Rattlesnakes Eat?

An adult rattlesnake can go for two weeks without food.  They have a slow metabolism and take a while to process their foods.  Younger rattlesnakes do however feed more often.  They require food once a week.  They prefer to start hunting at dusk.  They prefer to rest during the day when temperatures exceed 32 degrees C.

Do Rattlesnakes Drink Water?

Yes, rattlesnakes do drink water.  They do not require much water but do drink their own body weight in water every year.  They can go for long periods without any water but will eventually need to drink to stay hydrated.

Are Rattlesnakes Dangerous?

Yes, rattlesnakes are very dangerous.  Their bites can be fatal to both humans and pets.  If you are bitten by a rattlesnake, you should seek medical attention immediately.  A venomous bite can damage the tissues in your body.  It affects your circulatory system and destroys skin tissues and blood cells causing internal hemorrhages.

Do Rattlesnakes Eat Pets?

Rattlesnakes will bite pets if they feel threatened but they are not likely to eat large pets.  They will however catch and eat pets like bunnies, birds, or small kittens and puppies.

Do Rattlesnakes Eat Rabbits?

Yes, rattlesnakes do eat small rabbits.  In their natural environment, they frequently set out to hunt and kill wild rabbits to feed on.

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