Timber Rattlesnake

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Adaptable with a wide range, this is the only rattlesnake in most of the populous northeastern United States. This species is found in deciduous forests in rugged terrain. I have encountered them several northeast states, including southern Illinois on my trip there last month.


Adult Timber Rattlesnakes are typically from 3 to 5 feet in length. They have a pattern of dark brown or black crossbands on a yellowish brown or grayish background. The crossbands have irregular zig-zag edges, and may be V-shaped or M-shaped. Often a rust-colored stripe down the back is present.


This reptile is potentially one of North America’s most dangerous snakes, due to its long fangs, impressive size, and high venom yield; fortunately it tends to have a rather mild disposition. Contrary to popular belief, Timber Rattlesnakes are shy, retiring creatures that wish nothing more than to be left alone.

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These serpents eat a wide range of small birds and mammals, including rodents, moles and rabbits. When it comes to hunting, they have a specialized adaptation. Like all pit vipers, these snakes have heat-sensitive pits located on each side of the head. These sensors help them hone in on warm blooded prey.


Timber Rattlesnakes give birth to live young in Autumn. When born, a young rattlesnake has a single “button” at the end of its tail. With each shed a new segment is added to its rattle. The segments are loosely attached and when the snake vibrates its tail they shake against one another, making the “rattle” sound.


Rattlesnakes are found only in the Americas.

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