Species group: Rattlesnakes and Other Vipers
Other common names: Canebrake Rattlesnake
Scientific name: Crotalus horridus
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.
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.
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.
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
Fascinating but Dangerous
I’ve had the good fortune to work with this and other vipers in zoos for decades and to assist with field studies. But fascinating though they are, I feel strongly that venomous snakes should never be kept in private collections. Unfortunately, the Timber rattler’s sometimes large (localized) populations, willingness to breed and “reputation” leads some to label it as an “ideal hot snake”. Please ignore such advice!
Snake venom is constantly evolving in response to prey animal defenses, and we know little about the toxins produced by many species. Due to these facts, and because individual sensitivities and other factors can greatly affect one’s reaction to a bite, even those species that are sometimes referred to as “mildly venomous” must be considered as capable of causing human fatalities. It is impossible for a private snake owner to adequately prepare for or treat a venomous snakebite. This, or a related species, can easily be viewed in most any major zoo – please limit your viper “interactions” to zoo visits, or seek employment as a zookeeper or herpetologist if you have a serious interest..
From findiviglio Jan 23 2016 5:36PM