A Hillbilly Guide to Snakes: The Timber Rattlesnake

Timber Rattlesnake.  Public domain.
Timber Rattlesnake. Public domain. | Source
The Gadsden Flag. By Lexicon, Vikrum (Own work) CC-BY-SA-3.
The Gadsden Flag. By Lexicon, Vikrum (Own work) CC-BY-SA-3. | Source
Timber rattlesnake. By Tad Arensmeier from St. Louis, MO, USA  CC-BY-2.0
Timber rattlesnake. By Tad Arensmeier from St. Louis, MO, USA CC-BY-2.0 | Source

Crotalus Horridus... The Canebrake Rattlesnake


The timber rattlesnake, which is also commonly referred to as the canebrake rattlesnake, is a venomous member of the pit viper family that has an interesting place in United States history. The timber rattlesnake served as a symbol for the American colonists during the Revolutionary war. It was used in Benjamin Franklin's 'Join, or Die' cartoon, and became popular representation of the ideals and beliefs of colonists fighting for their freedom. The idea was that all of the colonies together made up the entire body of the snake, and only together could they keep the British from destroying them beneath their giant foot. When a rattlesnake is approached it uses it's rattles to warn predators, and then will bite as a last resort. At that time in history rattlesnake bites were much more likely to cause a death. This was the ideal the colonist stood behind against the British Government. This concept would come to be displayed on the popular Gadsden Flag in the form of a rattlesnake with the statement, “Don't tread on me.”

Timber rattlesnake.  Public domain.
Timber rattlesnake. Public domain. | Source
Timber rattlesnake.  Public domain.
Timber rattlesnake. Public domain. | Source

Appearance


The timber rattlesnake is a master of camouflage. They come in a variety of colors but are usually have a brown or grayish base color. They will have an overlaying pattern that can come in a variety of styles. Sometime it will be a V or butterfly shape. Other snakes have a random design that doesn't follow a strict design and can be thought of like tiger stripe camouflage. They will often have a red, orange, or yellow striped straight down the center of their back.

Like other rattlesnakes and pit vipers, their heads are triangle shaped because of the large venom glands that they have on the sides of their heads. This will give their cheeks a puffy look. Because they are pit vipers they have two small holes near their nostrils that look like an extra set of nostrils. These pits are used for sensing heat.

They aren't the biggest rattlesnakes, but they do get fairly large. Adults range typically range between 3 and 5 feet. The record is over six feet long.

Timber rattlesnake.  Public domain.
Timber rattlesnake. Public domain. | Source
Timber rattlesnake.  Photo by Magialuna.  This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.
Timber rattlesnake. Photo by Magialuna. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. | Source

Habitat


The timber rattlesnake ranges across a large area. Starting fro the southern and eastern coasts of the United States it goes as far west as Texas and as far north as Minnesota.

As it's name might apply timber rattlesnakes or canebrake rattlesnakes prefer secluded wooded areas thick with brush or debris. They like areas where their magnificent camouflage can hide them easily.

Timber Rattlesnake. Photo by by Trisha M. Shears. Public domain.
Timber Rattlesnake. Photo by by Trisha M. Shears. Public domain. | Source
Timber rattlesnake.  By Jonathunder (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
Timber rattlesnake. By Jonathunder (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons | Source

Food


Timber rattlesnakes will eat anything from small mammals, rodents, birds, amphibians, and other reptiles. Interestingly enough, timber rattlesnakes in different parts of the country contain slightly different venom. Their main purpose for their venom remains the same however. They will lie in ambush, strike their prey, then wait safely wait to the side until it dies.

Timber rattlesnake. Photographer: LA Dawson Animal courtesy of Austin Reptile Service. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License.
Timber rattlesnake. Photographer: LA Dawson Animal courtesy of Austin Reptile Service. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License. | Source

Interactions With Humans


Despite their tough guy appearance and reputation for being harsh, timber rattlesnakes are quite docile in nature. They will always flee from a danger if they can. If they can't they will warn with their rattles and make pretend strikes. They only have so much venom at one time, and would much rather save it for killing their food than having to defend themselves. When the attacker doesn't back off the snake will eventually strike. It still may not use any of it's venom with the strike, but if a person has been bitten it's probably best to get medical treatment immediately.

Yes these snakes are venomous, but with their seclusive nature they will almost certainly cause you no harm if you leave them alone. However if you to approach it as an enemy then it will become very dangerous.

Timber rattlesnake.  Photographer: LA Dawson. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License.
Timber rattlesnake. Photographer: LA Dawson. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License. | Source

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Comments 9 comments

brblog profile image

brblog 4 years ago from Chicago, Illinois

Hey Phillbert,

I came across a rattlesnake along a golf cart path in Arizona a few years ago. It reared up its head and the rattle was going. Luckily, it was too far away to strike but I am glad it made its presence known; otherwise we might have walked very close to it. It was amazing how it moved almost vertically up a stone wall that was right behind it.


Phillbert profile image

Phillbert 4 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Thanks for sharing your story brblog! That sounds intense! Yeah it's pretty crazy how well they can climb and the small spaces that they can fit themselves through too.


jrueff profile image

jrueff 3 years ago from Kansas City

Phillbert, I had no idea rattlesnakes could get so big... It would be both awesome and a bit terrifying to come across a snake over 6 feet long with a rattle on his tail... can't even imagine it. I think I may need to update my bucket list now.


Phillbert profile image

Phillbert 3 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Right!?! It would be intense! Thanks for the comment!


jrueff profile image

jrueff 3 years ago from Kansas City

It would be! I think I'd have to bring one of those rattlesnake killers - have you seen the revolver that shoots buckshot? I think it's called the Governor.


Phillbert profile image

Phillbert 3 years ago from The Ozarks Author

You are close! I believe you are talking about the judge, the one that shoots the .410 shells. Funny you mention it, I was actually looking at one just a few days ago.


jrueff profile image

jrueff 3 years ago from Kansas City

Yeah, that's the one! I want one pretty bad, will have to wait a bit though, save a little. Watched a youtube video on it and was pretty impressed.


Phillbert profile image

Phillbert 3 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Yeah they are sharp!


DDE profile image

DDE 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Interesting hub snakes are not always harmful mostly when touched accidentally and if people don't understand to be careful and not to play around with such dangerous beauties they will have to prepared for the after effect.

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