Rattlesnakes, with their venomous bite and distinctive rattle, are renowned as formidable predators in the animal kingdom. However, even the most fearsome creatures have their predators, and rattlesnakes are no exception. In order to seek and defeat these venomous reptiles, numerous species have developed specialized adaptations and methods, making them efficient rattlesnake predators.
From birds of prey with keen eyesight to agile mammals that fearlessly face danger, this article will show you some of the animals that feed on rattlesnakes.
10 Rattlesnake predators
Coyotes, eagles, king snakes, hawks, roadrunners, owls, mongooses, black racers, badgers, and opossums are some of the most common animals that eat rattlesnakes. These predators use different hunting techniques and adaptations to catch and eat these snakes, which are known for their venomous bites.
Scientific Name: Canis latrans
The coyote is a wild canid species that are endemic to the continent of North America. They’re closely related to wolves and domestic dogs and have many of the same physical characteristics.
These animals are also very adaptable creatures and may be found in a broad range of settings, including woods, deserts, mountains, and urban areas where rattlesnakes can be found. As a result, these poisonous snakes are one of the numerous types of prey that coyotes consume.
Scientific Name: Aquila chrysaetos
Eagles are enormous birds of prey known for their intimidating size, powerful flight, and excellent vision. Eagles are renowned hunters and occupy the top of the food chain in their ecosystems, primarily feeding on meat. While the precise prey species varies based on the eagle type and location, certain eagles are known to consume rattlesnakes.
Golden eagles, for example, have been recorded eating rattlesnakes and other prey items. But it’s important to remember that eagles don’t usually rely on these venomous snakes as their main food source. Instead, they hunt them along with other types of prey.
Scientific Name: Lampropeltis getula
A kingsnake is a non-poisonous species of snake that’s an opportunistic predator. They can potentially consume other snakes, including venomous species such as copperheads, hognose snakes, cottonmouths, and rattlesnakes.
These snakes use constriction as their primary method of killing their prey and are known to be immune to the venom of other snakes, allowing them to safely consume venomous species without being harmed.
Scientific Name: Buteo jamaicensis
Hawks are skilled hunters who contribute much to preserving the ecological balance in their surroundings. These birds of prey are meat-eaters and will eat different animals, including rattlesnakes, when they come across them.
Red-tailed hawks are among the hawks that have been seen to feed on snakes, especially deadly ones like rattlesnakes. These hawks eat at least 15 species of venomous snakes, even though they may try to avoid them sometimes.
Scientific Name: Geococcyx californianus
You may be familiar with the roadrunner as a particular type of bird because of its recognizable look and ability to sprint quickly. This opportunistic omnivore consumes a diverse range of foods, including tiny reptiles such as lizards and snakes, particularly rattlesnakes.
Roadrunners have developed unique adaptations that enable them to prey upon rattlesnakes, making them one of the few animals capable of doing so. This is made possible by the roadrunner’s agility, speed, and specialized adaptations that help it avoid or deal with the snake’s venomous bite.
Scientific Name: Bubo virginianus
Many people are familiar with the nocturnal bird known as an owl due to its distinctive facial features, including huge eyes and quiet flight. You may also recognize them for their outstanding hunting skills and the fact that they’re extremely competent predators.
Because of their keen hearing and good vision in low light, they can detect and trap prey even when it’s dark outside. This includes non-venomous species, such as garter snakes and night snakes, as well as venomous species, such as cottonmouths and prairie rattlesnakes.
Scientific Name: Helogale parvula
A mongoose is a small mammal that’s a carnivore and is recognized for its agility, speed, and ability to seek and kill venomous snakes. One fascinating fact about mongooses is that they have developed a specialized adaption to ward against the effects of snake venom. Mongooses, along with a few other mammalian species, have mutations in their nicotinic acetylcholine receptors that confer resistance to the venom of snakes.
This resistance allows them to avoid the potentially lethal effects of snake bites. These mutations make the receptors resistant to the venom’s toxin, which means they can’t be affected by its toxicity. Due to their immunity to snake venom, mongooses are natural predators of snakes, including venomous species such as rattlesnakes.
8. Black Racers
Scientific Name: Coluber constrictor
The black racer is a species that’s mostly found in North America. These snakes are carnivorous, and their diet broadens as they grow and mature. Black racers eat mostly insects, spiders, tiny frogs, and small reptiles as juveniles, but as they mature, their diet broadens to encompass more complex animals.
They prey on nestling birds and their eggs and small mammals like squirrels and cottontail rabbits. They can also capture and eat small turtles and other snakes, even venomous ones like rattlesnakes.
Their adaptability and ability to consume various prey contribute to their success as predators. Although they do consume rattlesnakes, it’s crucial to remember that black racers have varied diets and take advantage of a variety of prey depending on size and availability.
Scientific Name: Meles meles
A badger is a well-known mammal for being a very adept digger and can excavate at a tremendous rate and faster than most other animals. The badger is also an opportunistic predator with various food preferences. They mainly eat small mammals and occasionally eat rattlesnakes.
When it comes to hunting these venomous snakes, badgers have a unique advantage. The snake’s venom doesn’t affect them much, except if it strikes them on their nose. Because of their adaptive responses to rattlesnake venom, badgers can eat them.
Opossums are marsupials native to the Americas, known for their adaptability and distinctive appearance. They are characterized by their long, hairless tail, pointed snout, and opposable thumbs on their rear feet, which aid in climbing and gripping. Opossums are unique among marsupials due to their North American range and the ability to “play possum” when threatened, feigning death to deter predators.
One intriguing fact about opossums is that they are immune to many types of venom, including rattlesnake venom. This adaptation has earned them a reputation as effective rattlesnake predators. Opossums are known to consume snakes, including rattlesnakes, and their unique immunity to venom allows them to do so without harm.