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

Black morph with black head/eyes (left) and yellow morph with yellow head/eyes (right).

Appearance 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 30+ years.
  • Average size adults range from 32" to 58".
  • Their rattle gains a new segment with each shed.

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.
  • Timber Rattlesnakes hibernate from October to April.
  • Mating occurs in Spring and Fall.
  • Females give birth every three to five years.
  • 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.

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, and uses it's rattle as a warning device.

Common snakes are often confused

with the Timber Rattlesnake:

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

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