Most people don't think of a rattlesnake as a cute and cuddly pet, but a few do raise these deadly creatures for their meat, their skin and/or their venom. Before you purchase a dangerous animal like this make sure that you've done your research and are fully prepared to take on the responsibility of handling and housing these venomous snakes.
Research local laws to be sure you're allowed to own and possess venomous snakes. You may need to have a permit before you begin the process of acquiring a rattlesnake. You can start researching with your state's Department of Natural Resources office.
Make sure you have a place completely ready to store your rattlesnake once you have it. It's critical that the snake be safe inside the habitat you create and that it not be able to get out; an escaped snake is not just a safety hazard to you but a potential hazard to others--thus a liability to you--as well. Keeping it healthy and happy and well-fed makes it less likely to wander.
Visit an online merchant like Rattlesnakes For Sale or reptile enthusiast forums. Both are good places to look for live rattlesnakes for sale. If you're lucky you might have a rattlesnake vendor in your own state, but that is relatively rare.
Choose your rattlesnake based on the seller's expertise and knowledge of snake husbandry. If at all possible, visit the seller's location and check for temperatures between 75 and 85 degrees and generally active snakes that are willing to eat. Once you have your snake take it to a veterinarian as instructed in Step 7. This step is particularly important if you were not able to visit and evaluate the snake seller's site in person.
Complete the transaction as you would any other purchase. Be ready to provide documentation that you've completed the permit process if it is necessary in your state, and do not expect the rattlesnake seller to do your research for you. Be prepared to pay for expensive shipping--the snakes must go by air, crated and bagged as venomous snakes.
Double-check that you have your permit--if required--firmly in hand before you pick up your rattlesnake from the airport.
Take your new pet rattlesnake to a veterinarian for thorough evaluation as soon as possible. Microbial bloodwork and fecal occult tests can clue your veterinarian in to potential health problems before they are visible to you. Steps that you can take to evaluate your snake's health on your own include a careful examination for external parasites, both with and without a magnifying glass. Also be alert for signs of possible illness including vomiting, diarrhea and unwillingness to eat.
It's very hard to determine the sex of a rattlesnake; the best indicator for a layman is that the tail of a male snake--the distance between the anus and the rattle--is much longer than on a female. If having a snake of a particular sex is important to you, your only real choice when buying online is to purchase the snake and then inspect it when you receive it. If you're buying in person, the seller should be able to show you both a male and a female snake so that you can compare tail length for yourself. The seller should also be able to manually extrude a male snake's paired hemipenises to demonstrate that it is, in fact, a male. There is no comparable process for a female snake.