By Meaghan English, TrueSouth Properties Wildlife Specialist
It goes without saying that the summer months can be the most dangerous for landowners and outdoorsmen/women. Not only are individuals combatting the raging heat and humidity, they are also constantly looking for snakes lurking in the grass or underneath wood scraps. Of all the snakes that inhabit the Southeast, one of the most interesting (and harmful) is the Crotalus horridus, or the Timber rattlesnake.
This venomous pit viper is one of the most common venomous snakes in Alabama. The snake used to only inhabit the eastern United States from the top of the map to the bottom, but it has now established populations all over this continent. Down south, we are used to tip-toeing around wood piles and cautiously lifting rocks because we know that these creatures like to hide underneath this large objects. Up north, the Timber rattler can be found in higher, forested elevations. Crevices are their favorite especially when they are seeking out locations for hibernation. Like many animals, this species experiences sexual dimorphism, with the males being slightly larger than the females. Surprisingly, this species has many different color morphs. The most common in the South is the gray morph with dark, black markings all along the backside. However, they can be a much lighter tan or almost yellow color. Today, many morphs are mixed together and some snakes of this species can look very different from one another. This species mates in the summer months and is completely dormant in the winter months due to hibernation. Now through October marks the mating season for Timber rattlesnakes so beware of males chasing the scent of females! Another interesting fact about this species is the fact that males do not become sexually mature until they are 4 to 6 years old; females reach sexual maturity at an even older age! I guess this is not so shocking when the average lifespan of a Timber rattlesnake living in the wild is 30 years! This snake’s numbers are rapidly plummeting due to deforestation and hunting. Most people see a rattlesnake and automatically reach for a gun. The truth is, these snakes are only harmful if provoked and if you’re a turkey hunter, you should be thankful they exist. They are our front line defense for those pesky small mammals that constantly rob turkey nests!
Although a little bit frightening to the naked eye, the Timber rattlesnake is a magnificent creature that plays a crucial part in keeping small mammals numbers in check. With that being said, I do not encourage going out into the woods and catching one for a pet. If you come across the infamous Crotalus horridus, it is best to take a picture and keep moving!
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