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7/23/18- Timber Rattlesnake

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!

By: Meaghan English

My name is Meaghan English, a wildlife specialist with TrueSouth. I graduated from Auburn University with a bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Ecology and Management and I have grown up with a passion for hunting. I knew from an early age that I was not only interested in the harvesting of wildlife, but I was also very interested in their biology and management. I decided that I not only wanted to be a wildlife enthusiast, I want to be an educated wildlife specialist. I will be using that grand education as a member of the TrueSouth team contributing wildlife blog articles!

My first hunting memory flashes back to when I was six or seven years old. Like any other Saturday during deer season, my dad had told my mom to get me ready because we were going hunting. Of course I was ecstatic! I was not ecstatic about the hair bow my mom made me wear with my camouflage (she wanted everyone to know I was in fact a fashionable girl). The entire way to Perdue Hill, Alabama, my dad told me that today would be the first day I would actually shoot my first deer and I knew I was ready. We pulled up to the camp, unloaded, and fed all the “camp cats”. Before we headed to our stand, I had spotted three kittens that I simply could not leave behind so I stuffed them in my jacket. After walking what seemed like five miles, we finally made it to the “Pressbox stand” (with my smuggled kittens) and sat down. Dad continuously pestered me to be quiet, but I wasn’t that worried about shooting a deer, I had kittens! Eventually, the sun began to sink behind the trees and a spike (without olfactory senses) entered the field. When it was safe to quietly move, dad handed me the gun and I handed him my three kittens. I slowly pulled the gun up and placed my cheek against the stock. Dad told me to breathe slowly and pull the trigger when I was ready. Sure enough, I pulled the trigger and the spike hit the ground. We high-fived, exchanged kittens again, and climbed down to see the kill. It certainly was not a wall hanger, but a huge chapter in my life was started that night. My dad and I still hunt together to this day and we practice quality deer management at all times.

My ultimate goal is to provide clients with a survey of flora and fauna that currently inhabit a specific tract of land and, if desired, how to properly manage that land for the species that are found there. All feedback is greatly appreciated and I look forward to working with you!

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