LOOK: Rare White Rattlesnake Spotted in Florida Wilderness

by Caitlin Berard
(Photo by kuritafsheen via Getty Images)

On the coast of the Florida Panhandle lies Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, 90,000 acres of outdoor adventure and home to all manner of fascinating flora and fauna. A wide variety of birds, amphibians, mammals, reptiles, and fish, all reside within the bounds of the WMA, along with at least 100 types of butterflies!

From deer to owls to rattlesnakes to tree frogs, visitors to the park are guaranteed to see countless interesting creatures – and if you’re lucky, you might even spot a rare species. When four friends departed their hometown of Tallahassee for a day at Big Bend, they had no idea just how lucky they would be.

Big Bend is made up of five units: Hickory Mound, Jena, Snipe Island, Spring Creek, and Tide Swamp. Each unit offers a unique wildlife and landscape experience. As the sun began to dip below the horizon, the group ventured into Hickory Mound, leaving their truck behind in favor of a nature walk.

As they walked among the tall marsh grass, a glimmer of white caught the eye of B.D. Jogerst. Looking closer, he realized it was a pale snake attempting to camouflage itself among the dirt and roots. Not just any snake, however, a baby eastern diamondback rattlesnake.

Snapping a photo of their odd find, the group shared the experience with the Florida Wildlife Commission Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. The FWC then shed more light on the colorless rattlesnake. “The snake is amelanistic, meaning it lacks black pigment,” the organization explained. “Because of its light coloration, it is less camouflaged and more susceptible to predation.”

Rattlesnakes Need Their Earth-Toned Skin to Survive

We think of rattlesnakes as fierce predators, their potent venom and ominous rattle protecting them from any potential enemy. In reality, however, baby snakes are extremely susceptible to predation.

Aerial predators like owls, eagles, and hawks are known to swoop down and snatch up young rattlers for food. Ground animals such as foxes, coyotes, and even turkeys will also snack on a rattlesnake, given the opportunity. As such, their earth-toned skin is actually crucial to their survival.

The typical brown, yellow, or tan scales decorated with black, brown, and cream diamonds help rattlesnakes blend into their surroundings. With the help of this natural camouflage, rattlers evade predators of all shapes and sizes.

Unfortunately, this means that the amelanistic baby found in Big Bend WMA likely won’t survive long in the wild. The little rattlesnake clearly thinks he’s blending in perfectly with the environment. His glowing white skin, however, is essentially a beacon signaling predators to his location.

Thankfully for the world’s rattlesnake population, this phenomenon is extremely rare for the species. Scientists estimate that amelanistic skin only occurs once in every hundred thousand births.