Understanding Timber Rattlesnakes – knowing how to identify them and how they behave in the wild – will help people better coexist with this venomous reptile. It will also help to demystify the species to make it a more accepting part of our natural environment. 

Black morph with black head/eyes (left) and yellow morph with yellow head/eyes (right). Blue eye indicates preshed.

The rattle is made up of segments of keratin. A new segment is added with each shed. These segments can easily break and fall off. A snake will rattle when agitated, using it’s rattle as a warning device.

Common snakes often confused

with the Timber Rattlesnake:

Milk snake

BIOLOGY of the Timber Rattlesnake

  • Two color morphs: Black (black head with black eyes) and yellow (yellow head with yellow eyes). Both morphs have a black tail a few inches before the rattle.
  • Pit viper with heat-sensing facial pits for tracking warm-blooded prey.
  • The forked tongue is used to "smell" by collecting airborne scents and delivering to a sensory organ on the roof of the mouth.
  • Rattlesnakes inject venom to kill their prey and help digest food.
  • Lifespan average 16 to 40+ years in the wild.
  • The rattle gains a new segment with each shed.
  • Average size adults range from 32" to 58".

BEHAVIOR of the Timber Rattlesnake

  • Timber Rattlesnakes are not aggressive. They will strike only if provoked (stepped on or harassed, physically threatened).
  • They will avoid confrontation and are harmless if left alone.
  • Bites are rare and rarely fatal. Immediate medical attention is critical. See SAFETY page for more information.
  • Timber Rattlesnakes hibernate from October to April.
  • Mating occurs in Spring and Fall.
  • Females give birth in the fall, every three to five years, to 6 to 10 live-born young (neonates).
  • Prey include small mammals, birds.
  • Rattlesnakes can be found in rock piles or walls, on or under logs, tall grass and hiking trails.

Garter snake

Milk snakes and garter snakes are often mistaken for timber rattlesnakes, even though they don't have rattles and are significantly smaller in size. Neither of them are venomous and are commonly found in neighborhood backyards.


All images contained in this site © 2024 Polly Smith-Blackwell

All rights reserved. No reproduction, distribution or exhibition of copyrighted material.


All images contained in this site 

© 2022 Polly Smith-Blackwell

All rights reserved. 

No reproduction, distribution or exhibition 

of copyrighted material.