a news article describing the harrowing tale of a giant rattlesnake killed last week in Poulan, Georgia. If you follow this blog, you'll know my interest in giant dead rattlesnake pictures and how many tend to exaggerate the size of these animals to gigantic proportions. If you're curious why I didn't include this story as an update to my blog debunking these often outrageous claims, the associated pictures aren't being circulated as part of an e-mail hoax (yet) but there are still some red flags to discuss.
The news story notes that the "normal" size of an eastern diamondback rattlesnake, Crotalus adamanteus, is five and a half feet long. Well, this isn't quite true, of the hundreds of these animals I've observed, captured, or found on the road (all as part of ongoing research), I don't know that more than a couple were this large, if any. Now, don't take this to mean they're not out there, they are...but a snake this long would be a very large snake. This is likely what they meant to say in the news article, that is to say, the normal size of an eastern diamondback rattlesnake isn't five and a half feet long, but if you asked most snake biologists what they would consider a big snake, five and a half feet is a good figure.
So, how big do eastern diamondback rattlesnakes get? Well, it's possible for a snake to reach seven feet long. But it's hard to stress how unusual that would be. As I note above, a five and a half foot diamondback is a monster snake. There are probably less than five individuals measured in the last few decades that have broken the seven foot barrier. So, to find a snake this big would be an extraordinary event and we should insist on proof when it is claimed. Interestingly, the news anchor does note a seven foot long is incredible indeed, but they do occasionally show up. As proof, he notes there was a seven foot three inch eastern diamondback killed last year in St. Augustine, Florida. I discussed last year why that "measurement" is also suspect.
In reading the news story and watching the embedded video, it's clear reliable measurements are not yet readily available. The title of the news story notes the snake is seven feet long but the text notes it was "nearly" seven feet long. Similarly, the video segments describes the snake as seven and a half feet, then "about" seven and a half feet. Small differences? Perhaps, but if there was a reliable figure associated with the snake I would expect them to stick with it. It sounds as if the length of the snake was estimated, which we know is a questionable technique. In looking at the pictures provided in the news story and video, it's clear we have a big snake on our hands. But seven feet? What do you think?