Timber rattlesnakes play an important role in our ecosystems by keeping the populations of small mammals in check. Additionally, they help control tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease in check by consuming the ticks that are found on their prey items.
Timber rattlesnakes roam several miles from their winter den and do not have a permanent home. They cannot tolerate winter and hibernate for up to 7 months each year, returning to the same den each year. They hibernate in dens which are often in rock crevices. These dens may accommodate 15-60 snakes. The timber rattlesnake has several color morphs: background color of gray with rich black patterns or background color of tan, with patches of sulfur yellow tinged brown. All the snakes have transverse bands of color. In the coastal plains of the southeast, these snakes are much grayer with a rusty stripe down the back, and referred to as canebrakes.
It has been proven that timber rattlers help control Lyme disease! When a snake consumes a rodent, it eats all the ticks in the process. In a single year, a single timber rattlesnake will consume between 2,500 and 4,500 ticks!
Timber rattlers are pit vipers. They have heat sensitive pit organs located between the nostrils and the eyes. They are sensitive to radiant energy and can distinguish very slight changes in temperature.
Home range size varies depending on gender and season. Native to West Virginia, South New Jersey, South Carolina and Texas.
Habitat size may vary seasonally from hardwood forest, pine barrens, coastal and gulf coastal plains. Males have the largest home range size.
Timber rattlesnakes range from 90-152 cm in length, and record length is 189.2 cm. Males weigh about 2 lbs while females weigh on average 1.3 lbs.
Small mammals, in particular mice, rats, squirrels, rabbits and birds. Less common prey include insects, lizards and toads.
Predators include red-tailed hawks, foxes, owls, coyotes and skunks.
Attack stance of the venomous rattlesnake is to rise vertically with head and neck forming an S, and when ready they thrust with exposed fangs.
Timber rattlesnakes are ovoviviparous, giving live birth. Average number of offspring is 10.4. Newborn young are dangerous with fangs and a supply of venom.
Timber rattlesnake average life span is 16-22 years.