San Diego Natural History Museum--Your Nature ConnectionSDNHM Field Guide
Tortuga Island Diamond Rattlesnake, photographed by BDH

Crotalus tortugensis
Tortuga Island Diamond Rattlesnake


Crotalus comes from the Greek crotalon, meaning a rattle or little bell. The name tortugensis is a latinized spelling for Tortuga island. For a long period of time, this species was recognized as a subspecies of Crotalus atrox. In Spanish, rattlesnakes are known as La Vibora de Cascabel.


The Tortuga Island Diamond Rattlesnake is a medium-sized rattlesnake, often growing to more than 3 feet (1 m) in length. It has a very similar appearance to the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake, to which it is closely related.

Range and Habitat

This species is found only on Isla Tortuga located in the Gulf of California. Isla Tortuga is the remnant of a volcano. The island's landscape is barren and the terrain is trechorous.

Natural History

Little is known about the natural history of this island endemic. It is found in great densities on the island and over 20 individuals can be seen in a single day's hike. It is active during both the day and night. Because of the large number of individuals found on the island, the local fisherman refuse to camp on the island.

Conservation Status

Because this species only occurs on a single island, it is susceptible to extinction by collecting and the introduction of exotic predators such as feral cats. There have been no proposed conservation plans. Because of widespread negative attitudes towards snakes, very few conservation programs, worldwide, have been created. A much higher percentage of snakes are threatened with extinction than is currently recognized. Therefore, snakes are particularly susceptible to being overlooked by conservation-minded biologists.

Text by David Gonzalez and Bradford Hollingsworth.
Photos by Bradford Hollingsworth.

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