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Fact Check-Photo does not show rattlesnake ‘nursing’

Some users on social media are sharing a photograph purporting to show a rattlesnake suckling her young. The photo is fake. Rattlesnakes don’t nurse. The photograph shows a number of dead snakes arranged on a table. Some viewers may find it upsetting.

A Facebook post with the photo here published on March 3 2021, reads: “PSA: spring is the time of year when baby rattlesnakes are born. The momma's are very protective, especially when they're feeding. Be careful out there.”

Reuters could not determine the original source of the picture. It appears to show a beheaded rattlesnake with smaller snakes, possibly young rattlesnakes, lined up beside it.

A reverse search of the photograph showed the image has been circulating on Facebook ( here , here ) and in blog posts here since at least early March 2016.

Unlike mammals ( here ), reptiles do not lactate or nurse their young. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica here , “so far no reptile, living or extinct, has developed specialized skin glands for feeding its young”.

Rattlesnakes are ovoviviparous snakes, which means they don’t lay eggs. The female carries them inside the body for about three months and gives birth to live young snakes ( here ). Young rattlesnakes are born with teeth ( here ) and feed largely on lizards. As they grow, their diet consists primarily of small mammals, including rodents ( here ).

Colorado’s 9News debunked the same claim in 2017, here . At the time, Tim Trout, a snake expert at Denver Zoo told 9News: “Snakes don’t have milk. Rattlesnakes don’t hatch. There’s probably very little to no parental care in rattlesnakes.”

One of the earliest iterations Reuters found on Facebook public groups and pages, dated Mar 4, 2016 here was posted “as a joke”, according to the author of the post.

VERDICT

Miscaptioned. Rattlesnakes, as other reptiles, do not have mammary glands and do not nurse their young.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here .

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