Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake, Barling, Arkansas

Eastern Diamond-Backed Rattlesnake, Barling, ARThis photo of an apparently huge rattlesnake was sent to me by a Texas viewer who, he said, had just received it in an e-mail from a family member living in Arkansas. As noted below the actual place where the photo was taken is in serious dispute, but was listed by the sender as Barling, AR. The family member told him the snake was nine feet long. I replied that the snake had been photographed to make it look larger than it was, but that I would take some measurements and get some idea of its true size: This specimen was about 5.75 ft. long. At mid-body its width was approx. 3.25 inches, about the same width as its head. Later, I found a Snopes article on a rattlesnake hoax that featured what was reportedly a nine-foot, 97-lb. specimen, from the Old Turkey Creek gas plant, on Highway 136, south of Fritch, Texas. The photograph used in the hoax was identical to the one sent by the Texas viewer and shown at right. Evidently, that same photo has also featured in a hoax claiming the snake was killed at the J &L Tack, south of Poplar Bluff, Missouri, on Hwy 67. Authorities agree that rattlesnake mythology is alive and well. What do they say about rattlesnake size and weight? Lawrence M. Klauber, in his book "Rattlesnakes" (1982 abridged and revised edition) wrote that "we hear of eight- and nine-foot rattlers in Florida and Texas, where a seven-foot snake would be quite exceptional." In 1955, he says, prizes for Texas rattlers offered $10 for every inch over six feet, but the winner won only $95, presumably for a snake 6'9.5" long. Werler and Dixon, in their book "Texas Snakes," wrote that while western diamond-backed rattlesnakes found today average 3-4 ft. long, before the 1960's, specimens 6 ft. long were not uncommon, but the maximum recorded length for the species is 7 ft., 4 inches. Various authorities note that specimens weighing 20 lbs. are possible, but it is rare to find one weighing more than 10 lbs.

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