Are Baby Rattlesnakes More Poisonous Than Adults?

baby rattlesnakes

A baby rattlesnake (less than a foot long). Photo via Flickr.

Baby rattlesnakes can be seen in late summer and fall in the Rocky Mountains.  Do you know whether or not it is true that babies are more venomous than adults?

I remember hearing this story for the very first time as a child growing up in Southern California.  An unfortunate baby rattlesnake had accidentally wandered into our street and was cornered in the gutter, surrounded by all the neighbors.  I was warned to stay back because the babies are so venomous.  Ever since that time I have wondered if it is true or if it is just a myth.

What Rattlesnakes Are In The Rocky Mountains?

The Rocky Mountains are home to only one species of rattlesnake, the Western Rattlesnake (Croatulus viridis).  This rattlesnake lives in a variety of habitats, including grasslands, sagebrush, and forests.  They live mainly below 8,000 feet in elevation.

baby rattlesnakes

Photo via Flickr.

Are Young Rattlesnakes More Poisonous/Venomous Than Adults?

This is the big question.  Is it true or not?

The story that I learned growing up was that baby rattlesnakes can’t control how much venom they are injecting when they bite a person.  Thus, when they bite they inject a lot of venom and that makes them more poisonous than adults.

NOT TRUE – Baby Rattlesnakes Are Not More Poisonous Than Adult Rattlesnakes

My research reveals that it is not true and is just a myth.

The myth may not be true, but the type of venom baby and adult rattlesnakes possess is different.

Baby rattlesnakes venom contains more neurotoxin than the adults, which contains more cytotoxins.  The neurotoxin is more toxic than the cytotoxin.  The baby’s venom may be more toxic, but the adults have way more venom in their venom sac than the baby’s.  A baby is much smaller than an adult and just doesn’t have the same amount of venom an adult has.

Thus, when a snake bites the adult can inject much more venom than a baby simply because they have way more venom than a baby does.

The experts agree that an adult’s bite is more dangerous than a baby’s.

baby rattlesnakes

The western rattlesnake is the only poisonous snake in the Rocky Mountains.

Facts About Baby Rattlesnakes To Keep In Mind

One other thing to keep in mind is that young or  baby rattlesnakes do not yet have their rattles.  This makes it harder to know when you have approached one accidentally as it doesn’t make its warning sound.  Since you don’t hear their warning you may not be aware of it and be able to avoid.

Bites from rattlesnakes, baby or adult, are rarely fatal.  They will hurt very bad, but will generally not kill you.

You can read this old post about what to do if a rattlesnake bites you or what to do if you see a rattlesnake.