Facts, Identification & Control
The timber rattlesnake is the only rattlesnake to inhabit the northeastern United States, and is found primarily from central Texas to the East coast and as far north as Wisconsin, Minnesota, Vermont and New Hampshire. This venomous snake is best left alone. Like other pit vipers, the timber rattlesnake has a very prominent triangular-shaped head with a smaller neck. This thick bodied snake is capable of growing 6 feet long, although most males only reach a length of 5 feet and weigh almost 2-3 pounds. Female timber rattlesnakes, however, tend to be smaller, reaching a length of only 3-4 feet and weigh, on average, 1-2 pounds. They have keeled scales, which give the snake’s skin a rough appearance. While there may be color variations, the typical timber rattlesnake is often brown or grayish in color with a darker brown or black zigzag pattern that repeats itself across the length of the snake’s body. In most cases, a rust or reddish-brown line also runs the entire length of the snake’s body along the spine and ends at the rattle, located at the tail of the snake.
Behavior, Diet & Habits
Timber rattlesnakes tend to live in different types of habitats depending on their geographic region. In the northeast portion of the United States, timber rattlesnakes are more frequently found along the rocky hills of heavily wooded areas. While in the southeastern portion of the United States, they are more frequently found around higher, rocky edges of swamps or river floodplains within deciduous and hardwood forests and in the mountains. They are rarely found in populated, urban areas. In all cases, the snake uses rocks and ledges to help regulate its temperature: basking in the sun to increase its temperature or retreating into the rocky crevices to cool down. Active primarily during the day, the timber rattlesnake hunts during the evening hours. To hunt, the snake spends hours in a coiled position waiting to attack its prey, mainly small animals, but occasionally small birds, lizards and reptiles.
During the cold winter months, the timber rattlesnake locates a protected area within the crevices of rocks, or dens and hibernates until spring, sometimes with other snakes like the copperhead. Once it emerges, the timber rattlesnake seeks out other snakes to reproduce. The females give birth to an average of 6-10 live snakes in the late summer and early fall.
Known for their potent venom, the best way to prevent a timber rattlesnake bite is to avoid them. The snake is known to be less aggressive than other venomous snakes and provides ample warning before striking. When threatened, the snake will shake its characteristic rattle to warn potential predators of its presence. Only after this threat goes unheeded does the snake strike, sinking its fangs into its victim and injecting venom.
The best way to avoid an encounter with a timber rattlesnake is to keep your home and yard free of the snake’s prey. Maintain yards and landscaping by keeping shrubs and bushes well trimmed. Make sure landscaping does not touch or rub against the structure. Reduce the amount of debris around the structure to make your home a less pest-friendly structure.