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Colorado’s Deadliest Snake: The Midget Faded Rattler

Colorado Midget Faded Rattler
Thinkstock Photo

Colorado is home to three rattlesnake species, and one has some of the most potent venoms in North America.

The Colorado National Monument is an ideal habitat for the deadliest snake in the state, the Midget Faded Rattlesnake. These snakes have also been found in parts of Garfield County.

The adult snake is usually between 20 and 30 inches in length and is often gray or silver in color. The snake can also have light pink, pale yellow or reddish brown coloring. The older the snake is, the more faded it becomes until it practically blends in with the ground.

Few people in Grand Junction, even those that frequent the Monument or other similar places in Western Colorado have seen this elusive killer. If they have, they may not even have noticed because its faded color is a great camouflage.

What makes this venomous pit viper so dangerous is that its venom contains a powerful presynaptic neurotoxin that can have a detrimental effect on the central nervous system. The neurotoxin can cause intellectual impairments, memory loss or nervous system death.

In the US, Midget Faded Rattlesnakes, also called Yellow Rattlesnakes or Faded Rattlesnakes, are found in the Colorado River Basin in Western Colorado. Their territory extends to the Green River Basin in Utah and southwestern Wyoming.

The other two dangerous vipers you should stay away from are the Prairie Rattlesnake and the Massasauga Rattlesnake.

The Prairie Rattlesnake, (sometimes called the Hopi Rattlesnake), has venom that is a combination of a neurotoxin and a tissue destroying cytotoxic.

Prairie Rattlesnakes can grow to be between 3 and 4 feet in length and have adapted to a number of habitats but prefer dry climates with at least some vegetation. They also like to take up residence in other animal’s burrows or rocky outcrops.

The Massasauga Rattlesnake’s venom is a combination of a cytotoxic and digestive enzyme that prevents its victim’s blood from clotting.

Like the Midget Faded Rattlesnake, Massasauga is elusive and will generally only attack when threatened or disturbed. This snake grows to 20-30 inches in length.

If you’re lucky enough to see one of these snakes, give them the respect and space they need and deserve and both of you can peacefully coexist without concern for finding the nearest hospital.

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