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Abstract

We examined whether sex, reproductive status, body size, or body temperature of prairie rattlesnakes (Crotalus viridis viridis) was related to when snakes rattled in response to an approaching observer. We found that gravid females allowed significantly closer approaches than males, suggesting that females relied on crypsis to avoid predation, possibly because pregnancy constrained their locomotive ability. Smaller snakes allowed significantly closer approaches than did larger snakes. Smaller snakes may be more cryptic or slower, which may influence their waiting to rattle until the observer was close. Overall, we found no consistent relationship between the distance from the observer that a snake rattled and its body temperature. However, cooler gravid females allowed closer approaches by the observer than did warmer gravid females. In summary, reproductive status, body size, and body temperature appear to influence the costs and benefits of crypsis vs. active defense of rattlesnakes.