The Timber Rattlesnake

Timber Rattlesnake Description

Average length--35 to 60 inches with some specimens recorded at over 74 inches.

Average weight--25 ounces with specimens recorded weighing almost 10 lbs.

Classification--Crotalus horridus

Physical appearance--a gray or yellow brown background crossed with bands of black or brown edges in the shape of an M or V. This resembles a certain zig-zag pattern caused by the crossbands on the background.

Geographic Range--Predominately eastern US. North to Minnesota, New Hampshire and south to North Florida and east Texas.

Hibernation--In colder climates these snakes may seek shelter in animal burrows, rock crevices, hollow logs, or beneath old construction material or other dry shelter. They may also co-habit with other species of snake.

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The Timber Rattler As An American Symbol

Rattlesnakes--including the timber rattlesnake--are truly American reptiles. No other country can claim--nor likely would want to--their species as being indigenous to the landscape. Crotalus horridus is the Latin designation for the timber rattlesnake species and for a good reason.

Among the 32 other species, and around 70 sub-species of rattlesnakes, the timber rattler is alone in once being used as a symbol on a flag during the American Revolution. “Don’t tread on me” became a slogan for the colonies and meant to be a warning to those who would tamper with their liberties and rights.

Since medical science was almost non-existent in dealing with the venomous bite of any rattlesnake, the warning was more than merely a threat. Besides this, the timber rattlesnake was the only species of rattler indigenous to the northeastern United States and therefore, well known to the political headquarters and patriotic adherents of our young nation.

Small does not mean less dangerous.

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This small timber rattlesnake may be just as deadly as a larger specimen.
This small timber rattlesnake may be just as deadly as a larger specimen. | Source

Are Timber Rattlers Aggressive Towards Humans?

It's true thetimber rattlesnake--and other rattlesnake species in general--often get a bad rep for being aggressive towards humans and other animals.

On the contrary, they simply wish to be left alone to hunt for small animals, birds and frogs and to eventually make other little snakes to replace them when they've gone.

Since these interesting reptiles are pit-vipers--having pits behind their eyes which detect heat--they can tell if the creature confronting them is large or small in size and therefore a threat.

In this case, discretion is the better part of valor for a timber rattler as it will try to slither away if at all possible.

Remember this if you encounter one in the wild. Move away and leave the snake alone. It will not chase or follow you, despite what some may say to the contrary. In all of my many years I've never observed any snake chase a human.

Surprisingly, these snakes do have natural enemies in the wilderness. When very young they are easily killed by both birds and larger animals. Hawks and eagles prey on both small and large rattlesnakes in certain conditions.

As a farmer I have watched on more than one occasion as a red tailed hawk pounced down and flew off with a rattlesnake in its talons. With the snake still squirming the hawk headed for the trees to finish off the unlucky serpent.

Hunter and Hunted!

A timber rattler crossing a southern Georgia dirt road.
A timber rattler crossing a southern Georgia dirt road. | Source
A five foot king snake, hot on the trail of the timber rattler in the photo above.  The king snake is immune to the rattler's venom.
A five foot king snake, hot on the trail of the timber rattler in the photo above. The king snake is immune to the rattler's venom. | Source

More Threats to the Timber Rattlesnake

Wild hogs love a fat snake and even deer have been known to paw them to death with their hooves. Coyotes and fox also may use them for a meal if the situation arises. King snakes are especially adept at trailing, catching, and swallowing timber rattlesnakes as well. But today man is the major threat to these once numerous creatures.

Many timber rattlers--along with the other species of reptiles--are killed when they cross highways and roads. They have a tendency to bask their cold-blooded bodies on warm surfaces, thus our roads fit this function perfectly. Even if only crossing the road the snake is exposed to both automobiles and predators for a short period of time.

The constant spread of cities and other types of urban sprawl is steadily decreasing the habitat of all snakes and animals with the timber rattler being no exception. It is already endangered or threatened over many parts of its former habitat.

Catching and relocating a timber rattlesnake

A homemade snake catcher using rope and PVC pipe.  The rope is threaded through the handle and used to pull the noose snug--but not too tight--around the snakes neck.
A homemade snake catcher using rope and PVC pipe. The rope is threaded through the handle and used to pull the noose snug--but not too tight--around the snakes neck. | Source
Catching the snake behind the head with the snake catcher.  the snake will be relocated away from any residences.
Catching the snake behind the head with the snake catcher. the snake will be relocated away from any residences. | Source

How dangerous--venomous- are they?

Although a timber rattler will try to frighten off attackers with its rattling sound and coiled up defensive position, if stepped upon or suddenly attacked it may strike very quickly.

If the snake injects a full dose of venom the bite can be fatal to the attacker or intruder. If the snake has fed lately the bite may be considered "dry" since the venom may have been recently used and not yet replaced. But there's no way to know how venomous the bite may be until it has happened.

At the very least a serious strike will cause severe discomfort and swelling with possible loss of limbs or tissue. But thanks to modern medical techniques there are now several types of rattlesnake anti-venom for both humans and some pets.

Depending on their particular geographic area, timber rattlesnake venom may consist of neurotoxins, and both hemorrhagic and proteolytic toxins. These substances may cause swelling, severe pain, and loss of life or limb if not treated promptly.

Do not try and cut the fang marks or try and suck out the poison as once recommended. Nerve damage or blood loss may be the result. Seek medical assistance as soon as possible for the best case scenario.

How to catch a timber rattlesnake

Help a species survive.

The timber rattler has its own niche in our world. Sure, it's getting smaller everyday. but it is still important in the scheme of things. Many rodents become food for these lonely creatures. Rodents which don't make it into our neighborhoods and homes.

So please just leave these creatures alone and they will do the same for you. After all, they have been in the Americas many thousands of years longer than us mere humans.

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Comments 29 comments

Ghost32 3 years ago

Nicely done, Randy. As you know, I'm relatively rattler-wise, but not with the timber rattler variety.

I particularly liked your photo & explanation of the PVC-plus-rope snake catcher loop. Easy to make, and easy to make long enough to keep the user ultra-safe as well.

Voted Up & More.


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 3 years ago from Southern Georgia Author

Great of you to check out these timber rsttlers, Ghost. Yes, I make sure the snake-catcher is plenty long enough for safety. It works very well and is easy to fabricate. Thanks for your time and input on this one. :)

SSSSS


CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 3 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

Interesting hub on timber rattle snakes Randy, and I hope that humans start to wise up and help protect snakes and not kill them needlessly.


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 3 years ago from Southern Georgia Author

Thanks Cynthia! I know I used to kill every rattler I saw as there were so many of them around our farm buildings and fields. I did dispatch a large timber rattler a few days ago because it was hanging around my back yard and therefore posing a danger to my Jack Russell who will try and kill it anyway. Ally is older now and not as fast as she used to be a decade ago.

Now I don't harm rattlesnakes if they keep away from where someone may step on them or accidentally disturb them. It only makes common sense to keep them clear of residences, especially if small children or pets use the area frequently.

Thanks for your time and comments, as always.

SSSSS


MissDoolittle profile image

MissDoolittle 3 years ago from Sussex, UK

I love and respect snakes, I think mainly because they are these "scary creatures that kill." I have only seen 3 snakes up close (I live in the UK!). The first was at Singapore Night Zoo, and I went up and stroked a snake that a handler was holding. It was the first time I had felt the skin of a snake - they feel so weird. The second time was in Bali - this was totally different as it was an intruder into the hotel and there was kind of mass panic. It was only small - no longer than 30cm but the security guards said it was a deadly snake. The third was just an adder here in the UK.

These rattlesnakes, I'm sure are just misunderstood - yet I wouldn't like to get close to one!


CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 3 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

There is always that problem of when potentially dangerous wildlife and humans start to overlap, especially when there are children and domestic pets involved. Over here we only have a few adders, which don't hang around houses, so don't have any snake problems really. But people will still get hysterical and kill a harmless grass snake or slow worm because they don't like snakes


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 3 years ago from Southern Georgia Author

HA, CM! Imagine if they stumbled up on the five foot canebrake in the video above. Even folks here get a bit nervous around these creatures.

SSSSS


Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 3 years ago from North Carolina

How cool you caught the King in hot pursuit of ol Timber there, Randy. And thank you sir for publishing a Timber rattlesnake article and vids as they should be, relocation and all. In all my many tramps from the coast to the Mts. up here i've never come on one. However, riding across the Great Smokies a few year ago one was trying to cross the busy hwy and slung its body at least five feet of it back towards the side it was on when it sensed the air pressure from a car. It was a monster Randy, i mean just massive huge. Must of been an Eastern Diamond back you reckon? Anyway love this one bro- up use awe and beaut!


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 3 years ago from Southern Georgia Author

I don't know if diamondback rattlers are up that far, Alastar. Timber rattlers will get over 6 feet around here though. Yes, I was quite pleased to the get the sequence of both king and timber rattler as they crossed the road towards our farm.

I encounter quite a few canebrakes--no one calls them timber rattlers around here--this time of year as well as, plenty of other species as they fatten up for the winter.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting as usual, Alastar.

SSSSS


Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 3 years ago from North Carolina

Your right Randy- diamond backs wouldn't range into the mts, coastal only. So it had to have been a timber---but it was massive timber, at least 6 feet and very thick. Interesting the wiki range has them all over the SE up into Penn. but not extant in most of Fla. and the peidmont regions of Virginia. and NC. At least in the latter state i can attest to that being habitat destruction. Also says there are 4 types of venom with one actually being mild. Also says they're fairly docile as rattlers go which may explain the holy roller snake peoples success in handling them perhaps lol.


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 3 years ago from Southern Georgia Author

Actually Alastar, the rattlesnake species right around our area has changed from a once dominant diamondback population--very huge and heavy snakes--to one where I've only observed 2 of them in the last decade or so. I believe this is because of the disappearance of the gopher tortoises which the diamondback need to winter in.

The timber rattler was rarely seen around here not many years ago. The gopher tortoises are making a comeback now and I saw my first diamondback on the same road a few weeks ago. So these creatures are easily affected by changes and their habitats can change very quickly. For some reason the timber rattler is rarer the further south one goes from here, but plenty of diamondbacks on down into Florida.

And the "snake handlers?" Ha! The smart ones milk the snakes and/or pull the fangs--there are several sets waiting to drop down--or keep them in a cool spot before handling them to make them groggy. LOL!


Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 3 years ago from North Carolina

Surely the handlers wouldn't pull the wool over the eyes of the rapturous congregation, would they Randy? What about divine wrath for messin' with the Acts of the Apostles where it clearly states they don't need to cheat to have holy ghost protection against vipers, scorpions and strychnine?


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 3 years ago from Southern Georgia Author

LOL, Alastar! No use lettin' a hidden sinner draw unnecessary attention to these rare institutions by getting himself killed. :o

SSSSS


50 Caliber profile image

50 Caliber 3 years ago from Arizona

Randy, great shots of the two snakes, the Timber rattler seems to be located in the higher elevations and pines here, I've not seen any lower than the Pinal mountains as far as elevation goes and all have been in either pines or scrub oak, so I'm missing the critters they feed on. I don't mess with them other than looping them and stretching them out for length, they are around 5 ft sometimes but seem under fed as I've seen them. The Eastern Diamond back are the largest rattlers I've encountered. I was out side Poplar Bluff, Mo. at Lake Wappapello and had a 6 ft Eastern fall off a ledge we were fishing under and I heard a loud thump then a splash,

My uncle popped up hollering "get out of the boat!" over and over, I saw the snake and penned his head with a boat paddle and got a hold of him right behind the head with the intention of stuffing him in a wire fish basket and that dude was wearing me out I finally got him in and let the door slam shut, I don't know who was more tired me the snake or uncle Lloyd who was swimming the whole time refusing to even hold onto the boat while the snake was in the boat. I tied off the basket and tossed it into the water. Lloyd got back in the boat and he was so terrified of snakes it was funny. That was one well fed snake, and his falling in the boat was classic, ended the trip, Lloyd was done all he could do was keep looking up to see if more were gonna fall, a one in a million experience, I'm guessing but I think he weighed about 10 pounds. I breaded and fried him in pieces, I have seen few go that large out here but I've seen short like 3 to 4 foot be fat and weigh in at 6 to 7 pounds.

I have been charged by female Water Moccasin snakes in Missouri when they are raising a bunch of babies, they harbor them in their mouth and working around drain tiles where they are plugged partially holding water I have got in and got back out pretty quick, but come back with my sawed off 410 and end their reign of terror and the little ones loose their safe harbor.

I need to send you some pictures if I can locate them of a Black King Snake or Black Racer is another name I hear, either way they are non-venomous but pretty grouchy if you mess with them and they get bare hide like your forearm and a feller needs to clean the bite real good for a few days keeping 3 in1 balm on the area, they get pretty big around here and I don't mess with them unless they are feeding on my chicken eggs then they get hauled off and dumped to feed somewhere else.

Peace,

dusty


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 3 years ago from Southern Georgia Author

Great story, Dusty! I've had moccasins fall into the boat while boating down the river, but so far no rattlesnakes. You are correct about the size of the eastern diamondback. the largest recorded specimen was almost 8 feet long and weighed 34 pounds.

I've observed plenty of them over 6 feet in length around here in the past. But as you'll notice in the first video I made, the timber rattlers around here seem to find plenty to eat.

Thanks as always for your informative comments as I enjoy getting input from experienced people. Hope you're doing well!

SSSSS


Paul Edmondson profile image

Paul Edmondson 3 years ago from Burlingame, CA

Wow. Rattlesnakes make me very nervous. Did your jack russel used to kill them?


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 3 years ago from Southern Georgia Author

Yes, Paul. These are common around here. Unfortunately this hub has been idled before and will perhaps be deleted before long. And it's an exclusive title in the bargain with original video I shot myself.

I suppose another site may appreciate it more. Thanks for stopping by.


Paul Edmondson profile image

Paul Edmondson 3 years ago from Burlingame, CA

Amazing your dog would take on a RS.


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 3 years ago from Southern Georgia Author

Yes, actually one of my most visited hubs is about her snake killing ability. It seems to be popular in Indonesia because of all the deadly snakes found there. Not this one though, it gets very little traffic at all. No more exclusive titles for me. :)


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 21 months ago from the short journey

Though I grew up playing with little green snakes, watching out for rattlers and being careful about swimming with moccasins in Central Florida (pre WDW before so many truly wild places were destroyed) I was still amazed to see how close you got to the one in the video. Glad to see this info posted from a balanced perspective.


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 21 months ago from Southern Georgia Author

Thanks for your input and time, RTalloni. Yes, the habitat of the rattlers have been ruined in both Florida and here in Georgia. There are plenty of timber rattlers left around here though.


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 12 months ago from Orlando, FL

Oh my! You are daring! I see garden snakes often slithering around my yard, they startle me more than scare me, but I do not ever want to see a rattlesnake. There is a King Cobra on the loose in Orlando as I write this, he got away from his owner last night. I cannot imagine finding him! Great videos and photos. I am bad, I do not see snakes, I see boots and belts. :)


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 12 months ago from Southern Georgia Author

I'm used to both catching and killing rattlesnakes, Linda. Wild abut the cobra running loose down there too. I might just pass on catching that one. Thanks for checking the photos and videos. Thanks for your input and time. :)


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 12 months ago from New York

I am in awe of your knowledge of this critter, but more in awe of your pictures. They are certain proof you know what you're talking about.

While I'm not a snake person it was good to learn so much about a probably very maligned rattler.


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 12 months ago from Southern Georgia Author

Hello again, Mary! I don't dislike snakes, on the contrary, I admire their survival efforts and their ability to keep the rodent population down. There's times however, when I may see several of these creatures a day and I cannot take the risk of accidentally stepping on one or otherwise provoking one to strike me or anyone else who may be in the vicinity.

If they were endangered here I would be all for protecting them, but this is simply not the case.

Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting on this article. I appreciate your time. :)


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 7 months ago from High desert of Nevada.

Hi Randy. I thought I read this article long ago, but I see I did not. I think snakes, even rattlers, are fascinating. I respect them and keep my distance though. This is a very interesting hub.


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 7 months ago from Southern Georgia Author

Hi Phyllis, fortunately for me I've come to like snakes--sort of a necessity if you are a farmer--and seldom kill them anymore unless venomous and they become problematic around my residence or workplace. Thanks for the visit as always. :)


moonlake profile image

moonlake 7 months ago from America

I have only run into a rattlesnake once. My brother and I went to the pool for the day as we're walking home through the desert (El Paso). I bent down to tie my shoe when I heard the rattle and there he was in front of me. I screamed snake and gave my brother a shove. My brother ran off so fast he left me behind. We both made it home safe.

They taught us in school to never run from a rattlesnake and stand still. I always thought that was crazy. I wasn't about to stand there looking at that snake.

Enjoyed your hub. We don't have poisonous snakes here.


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 7 months ago from Southern Georgia Author

Ha Moonlake, I'd like to see you yelling SNAKE!!! I think the natural response for many folks would be to run. LOL! Anyway, most snakes wouldn't chase you if you ran. :)

Thanks for reading and the input.

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