There’s no denying that having a pet snake can be really cool. So cool, in fact, that they are one of the most popular household pets in the reptile family. Rattlesnakes are common reptiles that can be found in many areas, but can rattlesnakes be tamed?
Rattlesnakes cannot be tamed but they can learn to react calmly to threats. They are one of the deadliest reptiles known to man and unless the buyer has a permit to own the snake, along with extensive knowledge of rattlesnakes, it’s best to leave the creatures in their natural habitats.
You should always give a rattlesnake their space, even if you think you can tame them.
We’ll dive into the behavior of rattlesnakes and what to do if someone gets bitten. We’ll also go over their care needs, how professionals care for them, and what Herpetologists (snake handlers) do.
The Behavior Of Rattlesnakes
Lots of snakes have to rely on audible defense mechanisms, rattlesnakes included.
This is where the rattlers at the end of their tails come in. These features can provide a signal that the snake is threatened and will bite when provoked.
Rattlesnakes will also draw their bodies inward into an “S-like coil” and flatten their heads to make their color patterns look dramatic/threatening.
It is extremely unlikely that a rattlesnake can be tamed in the way that a domesticated cat or dog is tamed, but they can learn to see a person as non-threatening. This does take time and if someone is bitten by a rattlesnake, its bite can produce enough venom to kill a human or at least cause severe health problems. (Source)
Despite rattlesnake bites being extremely dangerous, they are not particularly aggressive and will not strike unless they’re provoked or surprised.
When rattlesnakes are given proper space and feel safe, they usually slither away as quickly as possible to avoid confronting the threat. Generally, they will choose to strike at what they think is food.
This is because rattlesnakes view their venom supply as valuable and know they need it to digest food so they will not use it unless they deem it necessary for protection.
However, there are times when a rattlesnake will attack without warning. Sometimes they’ll rattle to signify their presence but sometimes they stay silent and allow their color patterns to blend in with the environment. They also use this mechanism to hunt prey as they wait for the warm-blooded animal to pass before striking.
So if you accidentally step on one that is lying quietly, hoping to blend in, it will likely bite you. Or if you place your hand close to one unexpectedly, and startle it, there is a strong chance it will strike.
The rule of thumb with rattlesnakes is to leave them alone. Choosing to avoid killing, handling, or provoking the rattlesnake means it’s less likely that someone will get bitten. (Source)
Bit By A Rattlesnake? Here’s What To Expect
If someone has been bitten by a rattlesnake there will be one or two puncture marks on their skin. There will be painful, tingling, and burning sensations around the area with swelling, bruising, and discoloration to follow.
There are other symptoms one can experience, taken from the following site:
- Numbness in the face or limbs
- Nausea or Vomiting
- Blurred vision
- Difficulty breathing
How To Treat Rattlesnake Bites
When you’ve been bitten by a rattler, the first thing is to get away from the snake since it is likely to attack again. Remember the colors of the snake so when a medical team reaches you, they will be able to help more in treatment. Call an ambulance when you’re able to, as it is imperative to get to a hospital as soon as possible.
You can minimize the dangerous venom risks by following the steps below.
- Don’t raise the area above the level of the heart. If you do this, your blood-containing rattlesnake venom will reach your heart more quickly.
- Stay as still as possible, as movement will increase your blood flow and the venom will circulate faster.
- Remove any tight clothing or jewelry before you start to swell.
- Let the wound bleed, as this may allow some of the venom to be released.
- Don’t wash the wound, as your medical team may be able to use some of the venoms from your skin to more quickly identify the correct antivenin.
- Place a clean bandage on the wound.
- Try to remain calm, as anxiety and panic can increase your heart rate, which will cause the venom to spread.
- If you begin to experience signs of shock, try to lie down on your back, raise your feet slightly, and keep warm.
- Don’t cut the wound, as this doesn’t help and you could cause an infection.
- Don’t try to suck the venom from the wound, as you then introduce the venom to your mouth as well as introduce the bacteria from your mouth to the wound.
- Don’t use a tourniquet or apply ice or water.
Additional details and this list can be found here.
Rattlesnakes As Pets
If you are still planning on getting a rattlesnake pet it’s important to make sure there is a legal permit involved. There are some states such as Arizona, Delaware, New Hampshire, and Hawaii that make it illegal to own a rattlesnake. By checking with the local pet store or state statutes, you’ll be able to find the available information about owning exotic pets. For a full list of states that allow rattlesnakes with permits or if it’s illegal to own one, check this site.
Here are the ultimate things to keep in mind when you own a rattlesnake:
- Never walk in the dark at home
- Keep the rattlesnake locked in its enclosure at all times
- Refrain from sudden movements around the rattlesnake
- Keep the rattlesnake away from children, elderly, or disabled people at home (They can experience both severe health complications or death once bitten)
- Keep the rattlesnake locked away if there are curious pets at home.
It is possible to remove the fangs or venom glands, though it is best to remove the venom glands as the fangs will grow back.
It’s rare to find someone who will perform these operations because this procedure is very painful for the snake and the wounds inflicted may become infected. Yet even after that, it is possible for the glands to grow back, so it isn’t a perfect solution.
Once a rattlesnake is captured from the wild, they may require immediate veterinary care for parasites and other illnesses before being brought to a domesticated home or wildlife sanctuary.
You will also be required to purchase antivenin (medication for rattlesnake bites) which ranges up to $3,000 per vial. There also needs to be a highly secure terrarium, as rattlesnakes are known for their notorious escapes.
One rattlesnake I had was constantly trying to escape its enclosure. (see my pic below) Luckily it didn’t before I released it back into the wild.
Having a shift or trap box will keep the snake safely enclosed if a handler has to move the snake or perform maintenance on the terrarium.
How To Care For Rattlesnakes
The following list is a rough estimate on how much a pet snake’s needs will be:
- Large terrarium: $150-$300
- Vet visits: $45-$75 (but many vets will not work with venomous snakes)
- Basic supplies: $100
- Food: $85/10 months
It’s important to feed the rattlesnake already-dead rodents such as mice, small rabbits, and occasionally insects.
It’s not that the rattlesnake can’t kill live prey, but feeding them frozen food prevents thrashing around in the enclosure and can give you more peace of mind. An owner must also watch the rattlesnake while it’s feeding to make sure the process goes smoothly.
Rattlesnake owners must always keep the snakes secured because no one sleeps when there is an escaped rattlesnake in the house!
There should be enough holes for the rattlesnake to breathe, but not big enough for them to escape and crawl on the floor or walls. Make sure to give the rattlesnakes plenty of space to move around in the terrarium. There also needs to be heating mats, heat lamps, UV lighting, and a humidifier for the rattlesnake.
They also need a water bowl, thermostat, and live plants are a nice touch.
Using a shift box helps keep the snake secured while the cage gets cleaned. The shift box needs to have a sturdy build and have a lock on the door from the outside.
Coercion may be needed to get the snake inside the shift box and locked securely for cleaning unless you can convince the snake to use the shift box as its den within the enclosure.
In that case, you will only need to wait until it is resting in the shift box to perform maintenance and cleaning of the cage. (Source)