Timber Rattlesnake / Crotale des Bois
The Timber Rattlesnake varies from yellow, through brown or gray to black. It has dark
back and side blotches on the front of the body and blotches fused to form crossbands on
the rear of the body. Like all rattlesnakes it has a characteristic rattle at the end of
the tail. It can grow to almost 2 m in length.
The only other rattlesnake in eastern Canada is the
Massasauga, which has dark bars on the top of the head. The Timber Rattlesnake has an
unmarked head. In addition, the Massasauga only grows to 1 m in length.
The Timber Rattlesnake no longer occurs in Canada. Historically, it was found in southern
Ontario in the Niagara area and on Pelee Island.
Prime habitat is forested areas with rocky outcrops. The Timber Rattlesnake hibernates
communally in rocky fissures. Such dens tend to be in granitic escarpments (like the
Niagara Escarpment) with a southern exposure.
Breeding occurs in the spring or fall. Females give live birth to an average of 7 young
every 3-4 years. Maturity is reached in 7-11 years at approximately 80 cm SVL.
The Timber Rattlesnake is a sit and wait predator. It frequently coils up adjacent to a
fallen log to await an unsuspecting small mammal. Individuals return to the same
hibernation site year after year. In the summer, snakes move up to 7 km away from the
hibernacula. Although the Timber Rattlesnake is venomous, there are few records of human
fatalities. More people die every year from insect stings than rattlesnake bites.
The Timber Rattlesnake was consciously eradicated from Ontario by people. In the 19th
century, hunting parties would attack den sites and kill all the snakes that could be
found. As gravid females would often bask at these sites, they were particularly prone
to attack. The last documented report of a Timber Rattlesnake from Ontario was in 1941.