Timber Rattlesnake


 timberRattlesnakeLeaves.jpg

 

Common Name
Timber Rattlesnake
Category
Reptiles
ScientificName
Crotalus horridus
Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Reptilia
Order
Squamata
Family
Viperidae
Genus
Crotalus
Species
horridus
SubSpecies

 

Description
Venomous snake with yellow, gray, brown or greenish background color; sometimes black; dark V-shaped cross bands, always visible except on black individuals; black tail with rattle at tip; no markings on top of head; dark, horizontal strip below eye; pit on sides of head below eye; vertical pupil; fangs
Size
30 - 60 in. (76.2 - 152.4 cm) long; males grow larger than females
Ecological Role
The timber rattlesnake is an ambush predator, meaning that it waits motionless along a rodent trail for prey to appear. Mice and other rodents are the timber rattler's primary prey. Adult timber rattlesnakes do not have many predators other than humans. Red-tailed hawks and some snakes prey upon the young. The timber rattler's main defense against predators is camouflage.
Fun Facts
  • Rattlesnakes are named for the tip of the tail which, when vibrated, makes a rattling noise. A new rattle segment, called a button, is added every time the snake sheds its skin, which may be as often as five times a year. Additionally, the rattles may break off, making it difficult to determine the age of a rattlesnake by counting the number of buttons. Timber rattlesnakes do not usually rattle unless provoked. Like the buttons, fangs are sometimes lost or damaged and are replaced periodically.
  • A common urban legend that periodically circulates throughout portions of the state is that Fish and Wildlife is stocking rattlesnakes. Some of the more colorful accounts include dropping them out of airplanes. However, the state has never stocked rattlesnakes in Kentucky and has no plans to do so.
  • Like lizards and other snakes, the timber rattlesnake smells by flicking its tongue in and out its mouth. The tongue picks up chemicals floating in the air and transfers them to a special sensory organ in the roof of the mouth. In this way, the rattlesnake picks up scents from other animals to locate its prey, a potential mate, or a predator.
  • The timber rattlesnake is the state's largest venomous snake. Its species name, horridus, is Latin for “dreadful”. The timber rattlesnake is never safe to touch, even if it appears to be dead. It, like other rattlesnakes, has a neurotoxin that may remain effective for a period of time after death and can still inject venom through a reflexive bite.
Food
Small mammals such as mice, chipmunks and squirrels; occasionally frogs and birds
Cover
 
Nest
Naturally occurring crevices, or dens, on south facing rocky hillsides
Breeding
Mate during spring and autumn; males find mates by sensing the pheromones, or chemicals that cause a response, left behind by female; courtship includes the male rubbing his chin along the female's neck; females are 4 - 6 years old before reproduction can occur; females give birth every other year; sperm can be stored over winter inside the female's body
Eggs
No eggs; female is viviparous, meaning young develop inside female's body rather than developing inside a shell
Habitat
Forests; upland wooded areas, especially south and southwest facing slopes with rocky outcrops and bluffs
Kentucky Distribution
Statewide in preferred habitat, absent in Bluegrass Region
Life Cycle
 
Life Span
 
Life Stage
 
Reproduction
 
Seasonal Changes
The timber rattlesnake hibernates in a den during the winter. These dens may be in old stumps, mammal burrows, and rock crevices. Several snakes may form a winter colony in a den located well below the frost line. Timber rattlesnakes may migrate short distances after mating to feed during the summer.
Spawning
 
Status
Common in preferred habitat
Uses
 
Voice
 
Young
Born August - early October; 5 - 17 hatchlings; born one at a time in a transparent sac; look similar to adult; 10 - 13 in. (25.4 - 33.02 cm) long at birth; born with venom, fangs, and one single rattle segment, called a pre-button; usually shed skin one to two weeks after birth; become reproductive at 5 years of age; may live up to 25 years in the wild
What We Can Do
Habitat loss and humans are the major threats to the timber rattlesnake.
Host
 
Diagnosis and Control
 
Interesting Facts
 
Contributed By
 
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