West Virginia State Reptile
Timber Rattler (common name)
Crotalus horridus (scientific name)
The timber rattler is the only species of rattlesnake found in the northeastern United States. A type of pit viper, it uses a heat-sensitive organ to detect prey and predators. Like all rattlesnakes, the timber rattler vibrates the rattle at the end of its tail to ward off predators. It usually attacks a person only when it’s provoked. Its venom can be very dangerous, and bites may be fatal if not treated right away.
ALSO KNOWN AS
Banded rattlesnake, black rattlesnake, American viper, cane rattler, cane breaker, chevron rattler, eastern rattlesnake, great yellow rattlesnake, mountain timber rattlesnake, mountain rattlesnake, North American (horrid) rattlesnake, northern banded rattlesnake, pit viper, rock rattlesnake, small rattlesnake, swamp rattlesnake, southern banded rattlesnake, velvet tail, rattlesnake of the bottomlands, and Seminole rattler.
The timber rattler is a large, heavy snake with a wide, triangular head. Color varies a lot from region to region. Most have dark brown or black crossbands on a yellow to gray background. Sometimes this snake can be nearly black, in which case the crossbands can be more difficult to see. The timber rattler has ridged scales, which give the skin a rough texture. The head has a number of small scales on top, surrounded by some larger scales.
As with all pit vipers, the timber rattler has a heat-sensitive hollow on each side of its head, a little below the eye and nose. This snake’s rattle is another important physical feature. It’s composed of a number of horny segments loosely strung together at the tip of the snake's black tail. The snake uses it to make its characteristic warning sound. The length of a rattle depends on the snake’s age, to a degree. This snake adds a new section to its rattle every time it sheds, roughly every 1.4 years, but rattles also sometimes break off.
Average 16 to 22 years. Maximum 30 years.
Rough ground in deciduous forests.
Range: New Hampshire south into Georgia and west into Wisconsin and Texas.
Conservation Status: Near Threatened (NT). Population is declining, and this snake’s range has decreased a bit. Overall numbers of these snakes remain high though.
As the weather cools, a timber rattler finds a burrow where it can hibernate with other snakes. It comes out of hibernation in spring, in either April to May depending on the location and weather. It’s not very active early in the year, and does not eat much until after mating. This snake also mates in fall. Males are particularly active in mating season, and will exert themselves to find mates. After mating, pregnant females bask in rocky, exposed areas, while remaining females and all males retreat to cooler forest cover. Though males mate every year, a mature female probably mates about every three to five years.
A female gives birth to four to 14 live young four or five months later. Young are born one at a time, each in its own clear sac, from which they emerge quickly. Young are born fully formed, though with only a single rattle. A young timber rattler is immediately independent but usually stays near its mother until it sheds for the first time, perhaps one or two weeks after birth. Males are mature at five, but females do not mate until they are seven to 11 years old.
Small mammals including mice, moles, weasels, rabbits, and squirrels; frogs, birds, and other smaller species of snakes.
Breeding interval: Annual
Birthing period: August-September
Average litter size: 9 young
Size at birth: 12 in (30.5 cm)
Click to enlarge an image
Raw Data Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Author: World Trade Press