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St. Augustine Find – Huge Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake

by Brett M. Christensen


Message claims that attached photographs show a 15 foot long Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake caught at St. Augustine, Florida.

Brief Analysis

The photographs are genuine and they do show a very large rattlesnake found at St. Augustine in September 2009. However, the snake was measured at around 7 feet long, not 15 feet long as claimed in the message. The message also exaggerates other statistics related to the snake, including its weight.


FW: St. Augustine Find Guess what was found just south of Jacksonville .. Near the St. Augustine outlet, in a new KB homes subdivision.

15 foot Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake. Largest ever caught on record.

Police office holding up rattlesnake

Large Rattlesnake Held on Pole

Close Up Rattle Snake Mouth

After seeing this, I did a little research, and learned the following:

One bite from a snake this large contains enough venom to kill over 40 full grown men.

The head alone is larger than the hand of a normal sized man.

A bite from those fangs would equal being penetrated by two 1/4 inch screwdrivers.

A snake this size could easily swallow a 2 year-old child.

A snake this size has an approximately 5 and 1/2 foot accurate striking distance. (The distance for an average size Rattlesnake is about 2 feet)

Judging by the size of the snake, it is estimated to weigh over 170 pounds. How much do you weigh?


Detailed Analysis

This message, which circulates via email and has also been posted to numerous blogs and forums, claims that attached photographs show a gigantic 15 foot (4.57 meter) Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake caught in a suburb of St. Augustine, in the American state of Florida. According to the message, the snake was the largest of its species ever caught and would have an estimated weight of 170 pounds (77 kilos).

The photographs are genuine and they do indeed depict a very sizable Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake. And, as stated in the message, the snake was found in a street in St. Augustine, a city in St. Johns County, Florida, United States. The snake was dubbed “Rattzilla” by locals in the area.

However, at that point, the text that accompanies the photographs starts to stray significantly from the truth. In fact, the snake was measured at around 7 feet (2,13 meters), not 15 feet as claimed in the message. A September 30, 2009 article published on Jacksonville news outlet News4Jax.com notes:

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — The trappers who caught and killed a giant rattlesnake in St. Johns County said the snake was 7 feet 3 inches long.

Experts said it’s one of the biggest rattlesnakes they’ve ever seen.

The rattlesnake slithered its way into Tuscany Village, a St. Augustine townhouse community, over the weekend. The trapper who caught and killed this rattlesnake measured it at 7 feet 3 inches.

FirstCoastNews, another local news site, confirms the catch, noting:

ST. AUGUSTINE, FL — A venomous snake over seven feet long was discovered in a neighborhood over the weekend.

It was an eastern diamondback rattlesnake that measured 7 feet, 3 inches in length. According to the University of Florida, the record size for that type of snake is 8 feet, so this was definitely a large snake.

Homeowner Howard McGaffney saw the snake on the perimeter of his neighborhood, Tuscany Village, near State Road 16 and Interstate 95.

Both stories feature the same photographs that are included in the email forward. Thus, although very large, the snake falls well short of the unprecedented 15-foot length afforded to it in the email forward. The specimen is also not the “largest ever caught” as claimed in the message.

According to a National Geographic article about eastern diamondback rattlesnakes, snakes of that species have been known to grow as long as 8 feet (2.43 meters).

The message also plays fast and loose with the truth by suggesting that the snake in the photographs would weigh over 170 pounds. The National Geographic article states that the 8-foot specimens can weigh up to 10 pounds (4.53 kilos). So, even if the snake was 15 feet long as claimed in the message, it still would not weigh anything near 170 pounds.

A Wikipedia article about Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake claims that one captive specimen may have weighed over 26 pounds (11.79 kilos). However, even a snake three times the size of that specimen would still fall well short of the 170 pounds suggested in the message. Thus, both the length and the weight recorded in the message are spurious.

Moreover, an eight-foot eastern diamondback rattlesnake might have fangs of a little more than an inch (27 mm). Thus, one would expect that even a 15 footer would have fangs of a length considerably less than that of your average screwdriver. And the other statistics recorded in the message are also factually dubious. It seems that whoever wrote the description should go back and do a little more research.

Either that or stop telling blatant lies. It is puzzling as to why anyone would see a need to embellish the original story by exaggerating the length and other vital statistics of such a large snake.  

Importance Notice

After considerable thought and with an ache in my heart, I have decided that the time has come to close down the Hoax-Slayer website.

These days, the site does not generate enough revenue to cover expenses, and I do not have the financial resources to sustain it going forward.

Moreover, I now work long hours in a full-time and physically taxing job, so maintaining and managing the website and publishing new material has become difficult for me.

And finally, after 18 years of writing about scams and hoaxes, I feel that it is time for me to take my fingers off the keyboard and focus on other projects and pastimes.

When I first started Hoax-Slayer, I never dreamed that I would still be working on the project all these years later or that it would become such an important part of my life. It's been a fantastic and engaging experience and one that I will always treasure.

I hope that my work over the years has helped to make the Internet a little safer and thwarted the activities of at least a few scammers and malicious pranksters.

A Big Thank You

I would also like to thank all of those wonderful people who have supported the project by sharing information from the site, contributing examples of scams and hoaxes, offering suggestions, donating funds, or helping behind the scenes.

I would especially like to thank David White for his tireless contribution to the Hoax-Slayer Facebook Page over many years. David's support has been invaluable, and I can not thank him enough.

Closing Date

Hoax-Slayer will still be around for a few weeks while I wind things down. The site will go offline on May 31, 2021. While I will not be publishing any new posts, you can still access existing material on the site until the date of closure.

Thank you, one and all!

Brett Christensen,