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Canadian Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Network - Réseau Canadien de 
Conservation des Amphibiens et des Reptiles

Crotalus horridus
Timber Rattlesnake / Crotale des Bois


Timber Rattlesnake

Description
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.

Confusing Species
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.

Distribution
The Timber Rattlesnake no longer occurs in Canada. Historically, it was found in southern Ontario in the Niagara area and on Pelee Island.

Habitat
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.

Reproduction
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.

Natural History
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.

Conservation Concerns
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.