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Where do rattlesnake babies come from?

Why will you never see a rattlesnake egg? Because rattlesnakes give live birth! Rattlesnakes are ovoviviparous, which means that a pregnant female will keep her eggs inside of her womb until they hatch, then the baby snakes, or neonates, are born from the mother.

Common Garter snakes also reproduce in this way, as well as anacondas and other snakes outside of Canada.

There are several possible benefits to this method of bearing young. In this way, the mother is providing constant protection of the eggs as she protects herself from predators. Otherwise a nest of eggs is subject to predation while the mother is away hunting. It also ensures more regulated incubation because a clutch of eggs left in the elements may experience drastic temperature changes which can harm developing young. A downside to this method is that if the mother carrying her young is killed, her offspring are also killed. Only some snakes reproduce this way, possibly due to differences in habitat requirements.

There are three different reproductive methods known as viparity. Viviparous animals include mammals which give birth to live young after they have developed in the womb attached to placenta. Oviparous animals include birds, amphibians, and some reptiles. They lay eggs and the embryonic development happens inside the egg, outside of the parent. Ovoviviparous animals are the focus for today. Sharks and some snakes have young which undergo their embryonic development inside an egg, but the egg remains inside the parent until ready to hatch.

Interested in learning snake basics (including identification, safety, diets, and how to help at-risk snakes)? Check out our two-part Snake Webinar Series!


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