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Meet the 8 Rattlesnakes Species of Laughlin, Nevada and the Tri-state Area [Video]

Colorado River

Meet Eight Rattlesnakes that make Laughlin, Nevada Home

Colorado River

Laughlin, Nevada

 When you think of Nevada, what comes to mind? Slot machines? The bright lights of Las Vegas? Maybe flashy cowboy hats and spurs? While all of those things are certainly part of the Nevada experience, there’s a lot more to explore in this Western state. If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path adventure, Laughlin is a great place to start. With its proximity to the California border and stunning location on the Colorado River, Laughlin is a popular destination for tourists and students alike. But don’t let the fun atmosphere fool you –  With miles of rolling hills and desert landscape, Laughlin, is also home to some interesting wildlife, including several varieties of rattlesnakes.

Laughlin, Nevada is the heart of the  tri-state region: California, Nevada and Arizona. Laughlin shares the Colorado River as the border between Nevada and Arizona. Laughlin is a mere 12 miles from the California border. Since snakes aren’t aware of state lines, this article will include snakes that are known to the Tri-state region and inhabit terrain that exists in Laughlin, Nevada such as scrub, rocky, rolling hills,

Whether you are hiking, boating or on one of the great adventures offered by Desert Wonder Tours, when you are visiting Laughlin, NV, Lake Havasu City, AZ  and nearby areas along the Colorado River, you chance seeing one of these amazing snakes. 

 

1. Speckled Rattlesnake

a close up of a reptile

The most common rattlesnake that inhabits the Colorado River area is the Speckled Rattlesnake.

Scientific name: Crotalus pyrrhus

Other Common Names: speckled rattlesnake, Mitchell’s rattlesnake, white rattlesnake

Adult average length: 24-30″ long

Habitat: mostly rocky and sandy areas

Range: East-central and Southern California, Southwestern Nevada, extreme Southwestern Utah, and Western Arizona.

Snakes are generally given their names by either the region they inhabit or appearance. The Speckled rattlesnake is obviously named after the latter. There are different shades and patterns of this species as they so successfully camouflage  to their habitats. gray, blue gray, tan, brown, yellow, orange, cream, white, pink, terracotta red, and possibly even more. They have darker crossbands and blotches that run across their body, that give them their speckled appearance.

Interesting Facts: 

  • They prefer areas with rocks and boulders
  • Adults eat mainly mammals; but occasionally eat lizards and birds.
  • They use their bodies to collect drops of rain, known as rain harvesting, to stay hydrated in area where there is no water source.

2.  * Mojave Rattlesnake

The Mojave Rattlesnake inhabits much of the semi-desert grasslands and scrublands that exist in Southern Nevada, Arizona, Southern California, New Mexico, West Texas, and into Northern Mexico, as well as along the shores of the Colorado River in Laughlin, Nevada. 

Mohave RattlesnakeRange of Mohave Rattlesnake

Scientific nameCrotalus scutulatus

Common Names: Mojave Green; Mohave Green, Northern Mohave Rattlesnake
Adult length: 2-4 feet in length

Range: Southeastern California from the Colorado river north of the San Bernardino County line, west through the Mojave desert to the Antelope Valley, to Walker Pass in the Sierra Nevada, and east of the Sierra Nevada into Inyo County.

Habitat: They show preference for the desert flatland with sparse vegetation including creosote bush, cacti, mesquite, and Joshua tree woodlands.

* Note:  There is an unresolved discrepancy in the spelling of  Mohave versus Mojave. It is this writer’s understanding that ‘Mojave’ refers to the name of the desert that extends from California into parts of Arizona, while the spelling of the county in Arizona is ‘Mohave’. This writer will use the former spelling for the snake’s common name, with the exception for Mr. Cardwell’s book).

The Mojave Rattler is the second most common snake seen on the roads and byways of Southern and Eastern Phoenix but are seen less commonly in the Western region of Arizona. It is not a good climber. 
It is often thought that the venom of a Mojave (Green) Rattler is more dangerous than other species due to having  neurotoxic-hemotoxic venom, but while the bites of this snake are common and responsible for many bites, deaths from bites to humans are rare. It is still the second most venomous snake in the United States Studies show that the Mojave Rattler is more  deadly to mice, but less deadly to humans. Still, it is known to be one of the most venomous snakes in the world.
Mojave Rattlesnakes haven’t been responsible for a death in Arizona since 2007, according to wildlife biologist, rattlesnake expert and author of  The Mohave Rattlesnake and expert on the Mojave Rattler, Mike Cardwell. Not to be confused with the Western rattlesnake, the Mojave rattlesnake has a greenish tinge that the Western rattlesnake lacks.

 

3.  Mojave Sidewinder Rattlesnake

 

Snake in sand

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scientific nameCrotalus cerastes
Common Names: Horned rattlesnake, sidewinder rattlesnake, Mojave desert sidewinder, or just sidewinder

Adult length: 18-36 inches

Range: Desert regions of North America.

Habitat: Often found in arid desert flatlands, loose, sandy washes, hard pan flats and rocky areas below 5,000 feet.

The sidewinder is found in the Southwestern United States and Northwest Mexico. The sidewinder is nocturnal or crepuscular (active at dawn and at dusk) during the warmer months. When the temperature is cooler the snake switches to a diurnal (active during the day) lifestyle. The sidewinder has “horns” on it’s ridged brow, a distinct feature that makes it easy to identify.

Interesting facts:

  • The toxicity of the sidewinder’s venom is considered weak and according to some sources the sidewinder has the least effective venom of any species of rattlesnake. 
  • The female sidewinder is slightly larger than males
  • Sidewinders give birth to live offspring instead of from laying eggs.
  • Sidewinders are the fastest moving rattlesnake

4.  Great Basin Rattlesnake

GREAT BASIN RATTLESNAKE Great Basin Rattlesnakes

Scientific nameCrotalus lutosus

Common Names: None. It is often confused with the common Gopher snake.
Adult length: 2-4 feet

Habitat: Rocky outcrops, talus slopes, stony canyons, prairie dog towns; below 11,000′

Diet: Small mammals, birds, lizards, snakes, and amphibians

The Great Basin Rattlesnake is gray or light brown with a tapering row of blotches that are black and dark brown in color, with pale borders and centers with irregular and wider shapes.  Scales are large and keeled (not flat and smooth) in 32-49 dorsal blotches and a slim body.

This snake has a large range  from Southeast Oregon, Southern Idaho, and Northeast California, to Nevada, Western Utah, and Northwest Arizona. It is a subspecies of the Western Rattlesnake. Look for great basin rattlesnakes within their range on rocky hillsides, deserts, or grassy plains.

Interesting facts:

  • The record lifespan of a Great Basin Rattlesnake is  25 years in captivity.
  • They have cat-like pupils and diamond-shaped eyes.
  • They communicate their age, condition of reproduction, and gender with other snakes that are around them.

5.  Western Rattlesnake

a close up of a snakea close up of a snake

Scientific name: Crotalus oreganus

Common Names:  black rattlesnake, Arizona diamond rattlesnake, black diamond rattlesnake, black snake, California rattlesnake, confluent rattlesnake, diamond-back rattlesnake, Great Basin rattlesnake, Hallowell’s rattlesnake, Missouri rattlesnake, Oregon rattlesnake, Pacific rattler, rattlesnake, southern rattlesnake, western black rattlesnake, western rattler, and north Pacific rattlesnake.

Adult length: 2-4 feet, varies by region

Range: from southwestern Canada, through much of the western half of the United States, and south into northern Mexico.

Habitat: mountains, forests, savannahs, chaparral, sagebrush, grasslands, woodlands – and and often occurs in close proximity to humans. It can be active day or night.

Western Rattlesnakes feed on birds, bird eggs, and small mammals, from mice to rabbits. They also eat small reptiles and amphibians. The juveniles prey mainly on insects. Western Rattlesnakes primarily live on the ground but sometimes crawl into trees or shrubs. They are not aggressive and live solitary lives. During cold months they hibernate in mammal burrows, crevices or caves. Juveniles usually have more or less distinct patterns, but these fade as the animals mature. The color of the iris often matches the ground color, which may be bronze, gold, or different shades of tan, pink, or gray. There is a dark brown postocular stripe with a white border that extends from the eye to around the angle of the jaw.

 

6.  Northern Black-tail Rattlesnake

Western Blacktail Rattlesnakes are one of 14 varieties of Rattlesnakes in Arizonaa close up of a snake

Range of the Arizona Black-tail Rattlesnake

Scientific name: Crotalus molossus

Common Names: Green Rattler and Mountain Diamondback
Adult length: 2-4 feet

Range: Southwestern United States in Arizona, New Mexico and west and central Texas, and Mexico as far south as Oaxaca.

Habitat: High conifer to dry, desert, alluvial slopes, arroyo and scrub regions. However, rock cover seems to be the most stable predictor of C. ornatus presence in any habitat.

The Northern Black-Tail rattlesnake is found in the Southwestern United States in Arizona, New Mexico and west and central Texas, and Mexico as far south as Oaxaca. primarily terrestrial and inhabit grasslands, savannahs, desert areas, rocky and mountainous areas, as well as high-altitude forested habitats.

Interesting Facts:

  • Average lifespan in the wild is 15 – 20 years, up to 25 years in captivity.
  • A distinguishing characteristic is the black stripe that extends from their eyes to the corner of their mouth
  • Considered to be one of the most docile rattlesnakes because of its calm demeanor and curious nature.

Black-Tails move in two distinct ways depending upon the substrate they need to traverse.  Their can actively change their locomotion from  sidewinding when the substrate is loose or soft, or rectilinear (characterized by straight line movement). may be gray, olive or tan, with dark gray, brown or black rhombic patterns. They are variable in color and can be more yellow in higher elevations and more gray or brown in lower elevations. may be gray, olive or tan, with dark gray, brown or black rhombic patterns.

 

7.  Panamint Rattlesnake

a close up of a snake a lizard on a rock

Scientific name: Crotalus stephensi

Common Names: Panamint Rattler, Tiger Rattler
Adult length: 23-32 inches

Range: Southern California and Nevada

Habitat: desert-mountain areas of the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada through southwestern Nevada, including Clark County. They are commonly found at elevations of 3,000-7,900 ft.

 

This medium sized rattlesnake can be found in Southern California and Nevada. Panamint rattlesnakes are highly nocturnal (crepuscular), being active just before sundown until  a few hours after sunset. It is believed this behavioral pattern is due the extreme temperature changes from daytime and nighttime in the arid mountains which they live. Daytime temperatures can be dangerously hot followed by nighttime temps that can drop to dangerously cold. 

An interesting fact about the Panamint Snake is that it was once believed to be a subspecies of the Speckled Rattlesnake, and indeed they do look similar. However, in 2007 the Panamint was elevated to it’s own species after DNA and morphology, wherein the study concluded that this species of rattlesnake did not interbreed with the southwestern speckled rattlesnake.

Panamint rattlesnake’s preferred prey are small mammals, lizards, and they’re hunted in turn by the kingsnakes that share their habitat.

This rattlesnake is characterized by the absence of the vertical light line on the posterior edge of the praenasal and first supralabial scales. The tail is usually black in color with wide, flattened rattles.

 

8.  Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

a close up of a snakea reptile on a rock

 

Scientific name: Crotalus atrox

Common names: Coon Tail Rattler, Diamondback
Adult length: 9 to 1.5 m (4 to 5 ft.) (The largest-known individual was 213 cm (7 ft.) in length).

Habitat: found in arid and semi-arid regions. Typical habitats for the species include desert, grassy plains, shrubland, woodland, open pine forest, and rocky hillsides.

Interesting facts:

  • The Western Diamondback rattlesnake is solitary outside of the mating season.
  • During the summer it is often active at night; in spring and fall it is more likely to be active during the day.
  • The Western diamondback rattlesnake has a reputation for being the most aggressive rattlesnake. Although the species’ venom is less toxic than that of many other rattlesnakes, it is delivered in higher quantities per bite.
  • It is the second-largest of the 40-plus recognized species of rattlesnake

The Western Diamondback Rattlesnake diet consists mainly of small mammals. Animals such as prairie dogs, rats, mice, chipmunks, voles, gophers, ground squirrels, and rabbits make up around 95% of the snake’s diet. Their tails end with bold black and white rings just before the rattle, resembling a raccoon’s tail, which is why they are also referred to as “coon-tail rattlers”. 

Watch this crazy video of a Western Diamondback snake in the cold Colorado River in April, 2022. Watch the video and then we will talk about the likely fate of this unlucky viper.

 

 

Rattlesnakes like temperatures similar to that of humans. If you are hot, chances are the snake is too and will seek shade to cool down. Reptiles do not, however, have the ability to regulate their body temperatures like humans, about 70 – 90 degrees F. They are ectothermic (cold-blooded) and must use the environment to regulate their temperature. When a snake is in cold water and unable to crawl upon a warm rock soon enough, their systems will become hypothermic and shut down. They will not eat and if they have recently eaten, they will regurgitate the meal. They will not hunt and will become dormant, and if they don’t warm up soon enough, they will die. 
It’s possible that this snake could make it to the shoreline and climb upon a warm stone in the sun, but unlikely as this snake seems to be floating, not striving to swim towards shore. 

It makes one wonder how the rattler came to be in this predicament. We can’t know but there are several possibilities such as chasing prey into the water and getting washed out, too shocked by the sudden chill of the water to do more than float. Another possibility is that it could have swooped up by a bird of prey like a hawk and accidentally dropped into the water from above. Yet another theory is that the snake was attracted to a warm moored motor and either fell off when it accelerated or the humans pushed it off when they discovered it.
For those reading this that have a strong fear of snakes, these snakes avoid people and spaces where there is a lot of activity, so it is unlikely that you will see one of these creatures near the casinos in Laughlin.
Also, rest assured that if you choose to take one of Desert Wonder Tours exciting adventures, your guide is knowledgeable and will keep you safe in areas where you might encounter a rattlesnake. 

 

To learn how to recognize a rattlesnake in the wild, safety tips and busted myths, continue reading here. 

 

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