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timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus)

Photos

Distribution Map

Distribution Map

Warning!WARNING: VENOMOUS

Characteristics

This is sometimes called the "velvet-tail" or "banded" rattler. This snake is venomous and grows to lengths of 36-60 in. (90-152 cm). There are two major color patterns: (1) the yellow phase, in which there are black or dark brown cross-bands on a ground color of yellow, brown, or gray; the crossbands, which may be V-shaped, break up anteriorly to form a row of darker spots down the back, plus a row along each side of the body; and (2) the black phase, in which the head is black and there are black blotches and chevrons on a ground color of dark brown to nearly black. This species will emerge from hibernation in April and May, and mate soon thereafter, sometimes before leaving the den. They give birth to 5-19 young in August and September. In the fall, they congregate in considerable numbers near favored den sites and often hibernate with copperheads and other snakes. This snake does not defend a territory. It is diurnal in the spring and fall, and nocturnal during hot summers

Distribution

This species occurs at elevations up to 6000 feet, and sometimes higher, in the Blue Ridge, in the far western mountains, and in the western Piedmont. It inhabits upland hardwood and mixed pine-hardwood forests, in areas where there are sunny, rocky slopes and ledges. This snake needs places to hibernate that allow it to stay below the frost line, such as large cracks in rocky outcroppings.

Foods

The timber rattlesnake preys mostly on small mammals, but will also eat some frogs and birds.

More Information

For more information, please visit the Virginia Fish & Wildlife Information Service (direct link to species booklet).