A relatively small species with adult reaching less than 100 cm in length. The largest specimen on record measured 88.5 cm. Proportionally, the head is small and the rattle is large.
The color pattern consists of a gray, lavender, blue-gray, pink or buff ground color that usually turns to pink, pale orange or cream on the sides. This is overlaid with a series of 35-52 crossbands that are dark gray or brown in color and consist mainly of heavy punctations. These crossbands have vague borders and are wider dorsally than latterally. Also middorsally, the crossbands become wider than the spaces that separate them. Posteriorly, the crossbands also become darker and more clearly defined. The markings on the head are mostly vague and irregular, although towards the rear a few dark marking may be arranged as paired occipital blotches and upper temporal streaks
Found in the southwestern United States in south-central Arizona, and in northwestern Mexico in Sonora. Also found on Isla Tiburon in the Gulf of California. The type locality is described as "Sierra Verde and Pozo Verde." The latter is a spring located on the Sonora side of the US-Mexico border, near Sasabe. According to Stejneger (1893), this spring is on the western slope of the southern Sierra Verde, which is also known as the Sierra del Pozo Verde
It is found in Arizona Upland Sonoran Desertscrub, Chihuahuan Desertscrub, Interior Chaparral, and Madrean Evergreen Woodland communities, usually on rocky slopes or in washes within rocky mountains and foothills. It is occasionally found in the flats but rarely strays more than a mile from foothills, mountains, or rocky habitat.
The ground-dwelling Tiger Rattlesnake is nocturnal during the hot summer months and diurnal and crepuscular in fall. It hibernates during the cold months of late fall and winter. Like the other "pit-vipers" (members of the subfamily Crotalinae) this snake uses heat sensing pits (one on each side of the face between the eye and nostril) to detect warm-blooded predators and prey.
Prey consists of mice, other small mammals, and lizards. Venom injected through long, hollow, retractable fangs is used to kill and begin digesting prey.
Mating takes place during the summer monsoon (July and August). A litter of up to 6 young is born in summer.
Although it has a comparatively low venom yield, according to Weinstein and Smith (1990) its toxicity is considered to be the highest of all rattlesnake venoms. It has a high neurotoxic fraction that is antigenically related to Mojave toxin, and includes another component that is immunologically identical to crotamine, which is a myotoxin also found in tropical rattlesnakes (Crotalus durissus). There is low, but significant protease activity in the venom, although there does not seem to be any hemolytic activity.
As far as bite symptoms are concerned, there is essentially no information available. Despite the toxicity of the venom, it would seem to cause little in the way of local or systemic symptoms in humans