Rattlesnakes are fearsome predators, but even they have predators of their own. From the red-tailed hawk to the cunning coyote and even other snakes, plenty of creatures see rattlesnakes as a tasty meal. But how do these daring predators take down one of the most venomous snakes across the Americas? In this article, we’ll explore 14 animals that eat rattlesnakes.
American Badger (Taxidea taxus)
Badgers are well-adapted for hunting and killing snakes. They have powerful forelimbs and sharp claws that allow them to dig up burrows where rattlesnakes may be hiding. Badgers are immune to snake venom, meaning they worry little about getting bitten while dispatching the rattlesnake with a quick bite to the head.
Bobcat (Lynx rufus)
Bobcats are solitary animals that ambush their prey. To kill a rattlesnake, they would quietly sneak up and pounce on it. The bobcat would use its sharp claws to grab hold, pin the snake down, and deal a killing bite to the head or spine. This is risky, as it exposes the bobcat to potential venomous bites. Still, it can be effective if the bobcat can deliver a powerful bite and avoid being bitten.
Coachwhip Snake (Masticophis flagellum)
Coachwhip snakes feed on small rodents, lizards, birds, and other snakes. They are non-venomous, so they constrict their prey. It is not known if the coachwhip snake has immunity against rattlesnake venom. Lucky for them, they are quick and agile enough to avoid being bitten by the striking rattlesnake.
Common Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula)
Kingsnakes are one of the most well-known predators of rattlesnakes. They are immune to rattlesnake venom and will actively seek out and kill them. Kingsnakes are constrictors, which means they wrap their bodies around their prey to suffocate them. They are also opportunistic hunters and will eat various other animals.
Cottonmouth Snake (Agkistrodon piscivorus)
Cottonmouth snakes, also known as water moccasins, are a type of pit viper closely related to rattlesnakes. Despite being closely related, these snakes are known to be fierce competitors and even predators of rattlesnakes. Cottonmouths prefer to feed on rattlesnakes that are smaller and weaker than themselves.
Coyote (Canis latrans)
Coyotes are opportunistic hunters who eat anything they can catch, including rattlesnakes. They are not immune to rattlesnake venom, so they must avoid being bitten. They will use their sharp teeth to kill the snake. Coyotes also hunt in packs, which allows them to take down larger prey.
Crested Caracara (Caracara plancus)
The crested caracara also called the Mexican eagle due to its eagle-like appearance, is a bird of prey native to Mexico and several southern states in the US. They primarily feed on carrion but also steal food from other birds of prey and will take live prey when the option arises, including snakes.
Eastern Indigo Snake (Drymarchon couperi)
Rattlesnakes found in the eastern and southern parts of the United States face a formidable predator in the form of the eastern indigo snake. Researchers have conducted studies that show the indigo snake to be immune to rattlesnake venom, so they have little to worry about when they get bitten. They are non-venomous and do not constrict their prey. Instead, they swallow the animal alive and are not picky about what animals they eat as long as they are smaller than themselves.
Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)
The great horned owl lives right across the Americas. They are adaptable predators and will consume anything they can catch. As owls are nocturnal, they will only catch nocturnal snakes like the prairie rattlesnake. They will also feed on other snakes that come out at night, like the small garter snake and the formidable common king snake. Although they may not be as swift as hawks, owls possess exceptional eyesight and powerful talons that allow them to successfully hunt and capture their prey.
Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus)
Roadrunners are not immune to the rattlesnakes’ venom and must rely on their speed to avoid being bitten. Roadrunners kill snakes by picking them up and bashing their head against a hard surface to kill them.
Opossum (Didelphis marsupialis)
Opossums are small, nocturnal marsupials that are found throughout North America. They are omnivores and have the benefit of being immune to rattlesnake venom. Opossums will use their sharp teeth to kill the rattlesnake and consume the entire animal, including the bones.
Red-Tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)
The red-tailed hawk is a skilled predator that uses a combination of keen eyesight and powerful talons to hunt its prey, including rattlesnakes. Red-tailed hawks will scan their environment from a high perch, such as a tree or a power pole when hunting for rattlesnakes. Once they spot a snake, they swoop down at high speed and use their sharp talons to grab it.
Southern Black Racer (Coluber constrictor priapus)
The southern black racer snake will eat any animal smaller than itself that it can overpower. Even though their Latin name contains the word constrictor, they prefer to kill their prey by crushing them into the ground to suffocate them instead of coiling around the animal. They are non-venomous, but people often confuse them with the venomous cottonmouth and kill them out of fear.
Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)
Wild turkeys are more intelligent than their farm cousins as they are skilled enough to kill small rattlesnakes. They will peck the head of a rattlesnake to immobilise it before attacking it further. Once the snake is subdued, it will rip it apart and consume it.