When you're in North Carolina and happen to encounter a sizable and slithery reptile, there's a good chance it's a timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus). Although North Carolina isn't the only home state for these carnivorous animals, it's certainly one of them. Timber rattlesnakes exist in many different parts of the eastern United States, from Alabama up to Massachusetts. They are sometimes even seen as far west as Nebraska, Minnesota and Texas.
In North Carolina
In North Carolina, timber rattlesnakes are especially widespread throughout the eastern portion of the state, which is also commonly referred to as the Coastal Plain region. In history, timber rattlesnakes roamed the Piedmont area, although they are now hard to find there due to a combination of excessive human expansion and farming activities. Timber rattlesnakes are prevalent within the state's woodlands, and they are fixtures in many mountainous settings; they are common within the Blue Ridge mountains, particularly in areas that don't have many people. These rattlesnakes can manage and thrive in numerous habitat types, including forests, agricultural sites, marshes, ponds, rivers and fields.
Other Names and Longevity
People in the Coastal Plain area of North Carolina often call timber rattlesnakes "canebrake rattlesnakes." The snakes sometimes are known as "banded rattlesnakes." Regardless of what they're called, these rattlesnakes have long lifespans. In the wild, they can survive for upward of 30 years. In captive environments, they can live longer -- a maximum of 37 years.
When mature, timber rattlesnakes often grow to between 30 and 68 inches in length. The females are usually a little smaller than the males. These snakes typically sport slender necks and broad heads. They often have black, whitish-green, grayish or pale yellow bodies, especially when they inhabit mountain locales. In other areas, specifically the foothills of Piedmont and the flat Coastal Plains, timber rattlesnakes are usually gray with a peachy-pink tinge. Their backs usually are adorned with long brown or orange streaks. They also have prominent black V-shaped crossbands going down the length of their bodies.
Timber rattlesnakes are venomous creatures, and it's no joke. Because of that, it's important to be extremely cautious should you ever encounter one. Stay away from them. They usually bite humans only when they're feeling scared and protective. However, their bites can indeed be extremely perilous to people. If you ever experience a timber rattlesnake bite, get medical help as soon as possible. These bites sometimes can be life-threatening.
Timber rattlesnakes deploy their poison immediately to disable and kill their prey. Some typical meals for these venomous creatures are wee mammals including rabbits, squirrels, rats and mice. Many timber rattlers are partial to chipmunks. They also readily consume fellow reptiles, such as lizards and other snakes. Birds and amphibians make up a fraction of their menu.
- North Carolina Cooperative Extension Gaston County Center: Timber Rattlesnake
- Savannah River Ecology Laboratory: Canesnake/Timber Rattlesnake
- Davidson Herpetology Laboratory Amphibians and Reptiles of North Carolina: Timber Rattlesnake
- Ohio Department of Natural Resources: Timber Rattlesnake
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Crotalus Horridus
- International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species: Crotalus Horridus
- New York State Department of Environmental Conservation: Timber Rattlesnake Fact Sheet
- New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Division of Fish & Wildlife: Timber Rattlesnake
- Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries: Timber Rattlesnake
- U.S. Forest Service: Crotalus Horridus