Rare, White Eastern DiamondBack Rattlesnakes Have Been Spotted in Florida. What Causes This Mutation? How Rare is it?

L. Cane

Rattlesnakes elicit fear in many people because they are venomous vipers. Their rattles - which can seem ominous and menacing - may not help their image. However, most snakes try to escape any encounter before biting and will use their rattles as a warning.

Florida's climate and vegetation make it hospitable to snakes. There are actually three kinds of rattlesnakes in Florida - the eastern diamondback, (which is the largest venomous snake in Florida), the dusky pigmy, and the timber rattlesnake. You can find the eastern diamondback and the pigmy throughout the state, whereas the timber's habitat is more limited.

What Causes Non-Colored, White, or Amelanistic Rattlesnakes?: Any living thing can be born without melanin, which is pigment in the skin. When this genetic mutation happens, a lighter color than normal usually occurs. Sometimes, there is a white color in place of normal, pigmented coloring. In the case of snakes, sometimes a scale pattern still exists with washed-out coloring. And other times, the coloring is only white. Snakes with abnormal coloring due to a lack of melanin are called amelanistic or leucistic.

The Taylor and Martin County Sightings in Florida: Finding an amelanistic snake in the wild is very rare because the snake's brighter coloring makes it more vulnerable to predators. Since it doesn't blend in like a regular colored snake, hunting would also be more difficult.

How rare are these occurrences? Some say that this phenomenon is so rare that it occurs only once in every hundred thousand births in the wild.

Nonetheless, in October of 2022, four hikers in Taylor county's Big Bend wildlife management area spotted a very light colored baby eastern diamondback rattlesnake near vegetation. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Institute confirmed that the snake was amelanistic.

Previously, a solid white eastern diamondback baby was documented from Martin county, Florida. That snake was said to be leucistic because it had blue, not red, eyes like amelanistic animals. The snake was called "Snowflake."

Edgar the Albino at the Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens: The Orianne Center For Indigo Conservation at Sanford's Central Florida Zoo houses an albino eastern diamondback named Edgar who is not only mostly white, he is also one of the largest living diamondbacks on record at over 7 feet long and around 20 pounds. Edgar is about 20 years old.

The zoo houses some of the most venomous snakes in the world in its herpetarium. It is located at 3755 W Seminole Boulevard in Sanford.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, You should give these animals space if you encounter one. You can also report rattlesnake sightings using the Florida Wildlife Commission Reporter App.

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