The use of dead and decaying animals for food appears often as an adaptive strategy in birds and mammals but is apparently rare within the reptiles. Scanty evidence exists for the utilization of such a scavenging strategy by rattlesnakes but convincing data gathered under properly controlled circumstances in this regard have not been forthcoming.

Western diamondback rattlesnakes (Crotalus atrox) were cage and arena tested for putrescent mouse preference and putrescent mouse location ability. Adults and neonates readily accepted mice that had been aged up to 48 h while black rat snakes (Elaphe obsoleta) failed to accept putrescent mice and would accept fresh-killed rodents only if the latter were moving. Adult rattlesnakes could locate putrescent mice buried in gravel but failed to find fresh-killed animals. The results were used to document strong evidence for a scavenging feeding strategy for this species and perhaps for the viperids as a whole.