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Timber Rattlesnake, Canebrake, Rattlesnake

VENOMOUS

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Scientific name: Crotalus horridus LINNAEUS 1758

* Currently accepted name

Synonym:

* scientific names used through time

  • Crotalus horridus – LINNAEUS 1758
  • Crotalus atricaudatus – LATREILLE 1802
  • Crotalus horridus atricaudatus – GLOYD 1935

Description: Average adult size is 36-60 inches (76-152 cm), record is 74.5 inches (189 cm). It can be a large, heavy-bodied snake. The reddish brown stripe running down the center of the back is disrupted by a series of large, black, chevron-like crossbands on the pinkish gray or tan body. The tail is uniform black. The scales are keeled. The head is large and sometimes with a dark diagonal line through the eye or just behind the eye. The pupil is vertical (cat-like) and there is a facial pit between the nostril and the eye. The tail ends in a rattle.

Juveniles resemble adults, but have a single or few rounded button at the tip of the tail

drawing

A. Top of the head (notice, except for the scales over the eyes, there are no large scales on the top of the head)
B. Keeled scales
C. Side of the head (notice the facial pit between the eye and the nostril)
D. Front (face view) of the head
E. Elongated scales below the tail (subcaudal scales) are typically undivided

Range: The Timber Rattlesnake snake has a very limited range in our state, found in only 8 or 9 counties in northern Florida. It ranges as far south as Volusia County and as far west as Hamilton and Suwannee Counties. There are also a few records from the panhandle. Outside of Florida, it ranges north to southern Maine and west to central Texas and southeastern Minnesota.

Habitat: Timber Rattlesnakes in Florida prefer low bottomlands where it is fairly damp, river beds, hardwood hammocks, pine flatwoods, swamps, and cane thickets.

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Comments: VENOMOUS. The Timber Rattlesnake should be given a wide berth and left alone. Because of its cryptic coloration (camouflage), it can be easily overlooked, especially if it does not rattle.

This snake was once very common and still is in some parts of its range. Throughout the past it, as well as other rattlesnakes, has been persecuted in Rattlesnake roundups, in senseless killings, and the sale of its skin to specialty leather shops. Rattlesnakes and other snakes, are some of our best allies in the fight to control rodents. They should be respected, not feared.

Comparison with other species: The only other Rattlesnake it might be confused with is the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus), which has large dark diamonds down its back and a brown tail. Southern populations of the Timber Rattlesnake, including those in Florida, have a reddish brown stripe down the middle of the back and a pinkish body.

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