Photo by Dave Caudle


Photo by Mark Bailey

 

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Crotalus horridus

OTHER NAMES:  Banded rattlesnake, velvet-tailed rattler, canebrake

STATUS: Fairly common to uncommon statewide, except for extreme southern Alabama. Declining or absent from many formerly inhabited areas because of direct persecution, habitat fragmentation, and gradual loss of deciduous and mixed forest types, but still apparently secure in some areas. Lowest Conservation Concern.

DESCRIPTION:  Timber rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus) are heavy-bodied snakes with a broad head that is distinct from its narrow neck. Adult timber rattlesnakes average 36 to 60 inches in total length. The coloration of this species varies from blackish to yellowish to pinkish, or grayish with dark, bent crossbands aligned along the dorsal length of its body. On many specimens a reddish dorsal stripe runs between the crossbands. The velvety black tail is short and thick, tipped with a tan rattle. Some people refer to the timber rattlesnakes found in the southern Alabama as “canebrake rattlesnakes." The timber rattlesnakes found in northern Alabama are simply referred to as “timber rattlesnakes.”

DISTRIBUTION: The timber rattlesnake is found from New England to northern Florida and west to central Texas and north to southwest Wisconsin.  It can be found in all 67 Alabama counties. 

HABITAT: Timber rattlesnakes inhabit upland and lowland habitats such as hardwood forest with rocky outcrops, pine flatwoods, bottomland hardwood forests, and cane thickets.

FEEDING HABITS: Timber rattlesnakes eat small mammals such as mice, chipmunks, squirrels, and occasionally frogs and birds.

LIFE HISTORY AND ECOLOGY: Timber rattlesnakes mate during late summer and fall. From five to 20 young are born the following year from August through October. Timber rattlesnakes may migrate short distances after mating to feed during the summer. Timber rattlesnakes hibernate in a den during the winter, forming a winter colony. These dens may be in old stumps, mammal burrows, and rock crevices.

REFERENCES:

Collins, Henry Hill, 1981. Harper and Row’s Complete Guide to North American Wildlife, Eastern Edition, Harper and Row, Publishers, New York, NY. 714 pp.

Conant, Roger, 1975. A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. The Petersons Field Guide Series. Houghton Miffin Co., BostonMA. 429 pp.

AUTHOR: Tracy Nelson, Wildlife Biologist, Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries