Overview Urban Legend of the Giant Florida Rattlesnake

In late 2009, photos began circulating on the internet depicting an eastern diamondback rattlesnake caught and killed by an animal trapper in St. Augustine, Florida, in September of that year.

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"A Formidable Rattlesnake"

eastern diamondback rattlesnake
Photo attributed to Jason Huntley / Circulating via email

A spokesperson for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission called it "a formidable rattlesnake." The photos are authentic; however, almost everything else included in accompanying emails and viral posts is fictitious. Read on to view photos of the mammoth snake, what folks have been saying about it, and the facts of the matter.

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"Not a Python"

eastern diamondback rattlesnake
Image attributed to Jason Huntley / Circulating via email

This email, which appeared on Oct. 12, 2010, is fairly representative:

Fwd: This is NOT a python!
Guess what was found just south of Jacksonville....
This is a 15 foot Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake - the largest ever caught on record, in fact. This snake was found Near the St. Augustine outlet, in a new KB homes subdivision just south of Jacksonville FL.

A little research revealed the following: One bite from a snake of this size would contain enough venom to kill over 40 full grown men. The head of this snake alone is larger than the hand of a normal sized man. A bite from those fangs would be comparable to being stabbed by two curved, 1/4 inch diameter screwdrivers.
This snake is estimated to have weighed over 170 pounds. (How much do you weigh?) Notice the girth of this snake as compared to the cop's leg in the first picture (and he is not a small man).
A snake of this size could easily swallow a 2 year-old child (and dogs, pigs, etc). A snake this size has an approximately 5 1/2 foot accurate striking distance. (The distance for an average size rattlesnake is about 2 feet.)
This snake has probably been alive since George Bush Sr. was President.
Now just ask yourself these questions: What has this snake been feeding on and where are its offspring?
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Bigger-Than-Average Rattlesnake

rattlesnake fangs
Image attributed to Jason Huntley / Circulating via email

Eastern diamondbacks (Crotalus adamanteus), which are found mostly in Florida and southern Georgia, average around 3 to 6 feet in length. The largest ever documented was 8 feet long. According to news accounts, the specimen pictured on the preceding pages measured a total of 7-feet-3-inches long from head to tail — which is impressive, but still short of record size, and way short of the 15 feet claimed. Confusing matters further, its apparent length and girth are exaggerated by forced perspective in the photos, in which the rattler is much closer to the camera than the human being standing nearby.

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A Much-Exaggerated Snake Tale

In 2009, "The Florida Times-Union" reported on this very incident: Indeed, the rattler was found by a St. Augustine resident, but, as the "Times-Union" reported:

A resident at Tuscany Village townhomes near Florida 16 and Interstate 95 at St. Augustine called (Brandon) Booth, who owns A-1 Trapper Man, on Sunday to come get the snake from near the entrance to the development.
"Actually, I've killed them bigger than that before," he said. "It's rare, [but] it's not like hitting the lottery or anything. If you look hard enough, you'll find them."

So, a resident did find an oversized rattler, but the tale of its size was greatly exaggerated. Indeed, the image connected to the emails may well have been kiped by rumormongers from this very news story.

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Why Did the Rattler Cross the Road?

Indeed, larger rattlesnakes have been found in Florida, as WTVY reported on July 10, 2017, in a story that included a video of a massive rattler, slithering across a two-lane rural road:

Bartow, Florida (NBC News Channel) -- A massive rattlesnake was recently caught on camera in central Florida.
Cathy Terry took this photo of the snake from the safety of her truck.
She describes the snake as a huge, fat eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, and said it slithered across the road right in front of her.
Apparently, the snake was so long it took up about three-quarters of the width of the two-lane road.
Terry says if they hadn't looked out their window before getting out of the truck, they would have stepped right on it.
Terry wants the photo to be a reminder for everyone to stay alert for snakes, not only in parks and woods, but even in their own backyard.

The report gave no indication as to the length of the rattler, but the Federal Highway Administration says that the average lane width of a rural, two-lane road is between 9 and 12 feet. Thus, an average rural road is 18- to 24-feet wide, according to the agency. Thus, a rattler that's two-thirds the length of such a road would be between 12 and 16 feet wide. So, mammoth rattlesnakes do exist — but the St. Augustine specimen was not among them.