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Timber Rattlesnake

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Is the Timber Rattlesnake right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Canebrake Rattlesnake

Scientific name: Crotalus horridus

The basics:
The Timber Rattlesnake figured prominently on several state and the US Navy battle flags during the American Revolution, and it was almost chosen over the bald eagle as the national symbol. Its “plucky” attitude and variable coloration also place it in demand by private keepers in certain circles. However, this increasingly rare snake has caused human fatalities – please limit your Rattlesnake contact to zoos only!

The Timber Rattlesnake is found over much of the eastern and central United States, from southwestern Maine to northern Florida and west to southeastern Minnesota and Texas. Small populations are still to be found in the suburbs of some large cities (i.e. along the Palisades in northern NJ).

Habitat type varies across the range, including sparsely wooded hillsides, rock outcroppings, brushy fields, swamps, canebrake thickets, and wooded stream valleys.

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Appearance / health:
In the north, the body is colored yellow, brown, tan or black with dark brown/black crossbars. From southern Virginia south and west, the Timber Rattlesnake is usually lighter in color and marked with a tan back-stripe and dark crossbars. All forms have a black tail. Adults average 1-1.5 meters (3-5 feet) in length, with a record of 1.9 meters (6 ft, 2 in).

Zoo specimens are generally hardy and have approached 25 years of age.

Behavior / temperament:
Timber Rattlesnakes remain high strung and are treated with great caution by zookeepers.

Housing
It is impossible for a private snake owner to adequately prepare for or treat a venomous snakebite, or, prior to a bite, to arrange for treatment in a hospital.

Diet:
The natural diet includes deer mice, meadow voles, gray squirrels and other rodents, rabbits, birds, frogs, lizards, and large insects. Zoo specimens fare well on a diet of rats and mice.

Written by Frank Indiviglio

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