A man in southern Sebastian County, Arkansas may have killed one of the largest western diamondback rattlesnakes ever seen after it allegedly attacked several of his dogs. According to the man, who remains unidentified, the snake was found on his property in West Hartford and bit at least two of his dogs, killing one. He dispatched it afterwards and the pictures of the snake were widely shared on social media.
Judging from the photograph, experts estimated the diamondback at around eight feet in length, which if accurate would make it the largest western diamondback in the world.
“Normally [they’re] around four or five feet, depending on what type it is,” pet store owner Dan Jones told 5 News.
Western diamondbacks over six feet in length are rare and only one reliable specimen has been found to be over seven feet. According to the Amphibian and Reptile Diversity Research Center at the University of Texas, that snake was captured in Cedar Hill, Texas and measured 92 inches overall. It is commonly believed that western Texas has some of the largest western diamondbacks. Further to the south, the diamondback holds a fearsome reputation as the single most dangerous snake—in terms of human fatalities—in Mexico. Part of this is due to the snake’s aggressiveness. Western diamondbacks are one of the few rattlesnakes that will stand their ground when threatened and if the rattling fails to discourage its foe, the snake will strike. Their venom carries a 10 to 20 percent fatality rate if untreated.
Despite the threat these creatures pose, it is illegal to kill a rattlesnake in most states unless you are in immediate danger. Experts say that venomous snakes are useful in cutting down on local rodent populations, which without predators could grow quickly out of control.
It is currently unknown if wildlife officials are investigating the snake’s death.