Mojave Desert Sidewinder


Order:  Squamata (scaled reptiles)
Suborder:  Serpentes (=Ophidia) (snakes)
Family:  Viperidae (vipers)
Subfamily:  Crotalinae (rattlesnakes)
Genus:  Crotalus (rattlesnakes)
Also Known As:  Mohave desert sidewinder, horned rattler

Scientific Name:  Crotalus cerastes cerastes Hallowell, 1854

Habitat:  Desert flats, sandy areas, dry washes.

Krotalon="rattle," kerastes="horned"

Length: 32+ inches.
Food:  Rodents and lizards. Sidewinder Range
This is one of my prize finds. I found this snake on my last drive of my August 1999 trip, on a side road a mile east of the Great Basin Highway in Nevada. There was a full moon that night and it was not raining. It was amazing to watch this rattlesnake move sideways as I chased it around the road; I got some great video of it. The first picture shows the snake coiled in a defensive posture. Please note that the snake's initial response to me was to flee. Only after I had run around in circles to keep the snake on the road and in sight (its pattern blended perfectly with the gravel on the roadside), after the snake tired, did it assume this position. The picture makes the sidewinder look bigger than it is--it's maybe 15 inches long at most. Almost all the rattlesnake species found in the American Southwest are under 3 feet long full-grown. Juvenile Sidewinder
The second picture is not something you'd want to see face-to-face. The sidewinder's face is right up against the camera lens, that's why the outline is out of focus. To get this view I held the camera down in front of the snake. Notice that this is not a strike--the snake's mouth isn't open. I think the video camera confused the snake more than frightened it. All it did was get close to the lens and stick out its tongue to test the air. The snake never struck at me the whole time, but rattled constantly. I finally chased it off the road. Strike?
This next beautiful sidewinder was found warming itself on the road in Valley of Fire State Park around 10:30 p.m. PDT in April 2000. It is estimated to be about 30 inches long, which is large for a sidewinder. Sidewinders, like all rattlesnakes, are venomous and should not be approached, especially if you're drunk! Many snakebites occur with intoxication as a contributing factor, and it's not the snakes doing the drinking! Chris with Sidewinder
As with the last sidewinder I found, this one made no attempt to strike. In fact, when I first touched it, it hardly even moved. These snakes would rather flee than attack a predator, and would rather save their venom for killing their prey. After taking a few minutes of video, this sidewinder was prodded off the road. I'm sure it returned to the warm road surface after we left. Hopefully it wasn't hit by a careless (or just mean) driver.

See also the sidewinders I found in California.