Driving through the Cerbat Mountains in Arizona on Memorial Day, I was enjoying the weather and the variety of wildflowers in bloom. Then, up ahead in the road, I noticed the unmistakable shape of a rattlesnake in the road. The snake’s presence in a high-altitude habitat and its dark coloration distinguishes it from other subspecies of the western rattlesnake.
Like other Pit Vipers, the Arizona Black Rattlesnakes is venomous and have a broad, wedge-shaped head much wider than their neck, large, erectable fangs that it uses to inject venom into their prey or predators, and heat-sensing pit organs in front of their eyes that they use to detect warm-blooded prey like rodents and birds.
Arizona Black Rattlesnakes were initially considered to be a subspecies of the Prairie Rattlesnake. Until recently, they were then instead considered to be a subspecies of the Western Rattlesnake. Now, after DNA analysis, Arizona Black Rattlesnakes are considered to be their own species, Crotalus cerberus.
When threatened, a rattlesnake will often (but not always) rattle its tail, producing a loud, dry rattling sound meant to warn threats to go away. A rattlesnake may also coil up into a tight, defensive posture, puffing itself up and arching its back to make itself look more threatening.
Like others of their kind, Arizona Black Rattlesnakes produce live offspring. The babies are usually born between August and October. This was the first species of snake observed to exhibit complex social behavior, and parenting behavior reminiscent of that in mammals. Females often remain with their young in nests for several weeks, and mothers have been observed cooperatively parenting their broods.