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Filed under Outdoor Notes

June 21, 2010

Timber Rattlesnake (black phase)

Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus)

I found this four-foot killing machine crossing a gravel road on a cool afternoon. I am always struck by how small the head is compared to the body.

Black phased Timber Rattlesnake

Black-phase Rattler

We get two color phases of Timber Rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus). This one (top) was a black phase, but we also get yellow phase rattlers (below).

Yellow-phase Timber Rattlesnake

Yellow-phase Timber Rattlesnake

Rattlers emerge from hibernation in late April to early May. At first they mostly bask in the sun, which helps rid them from parasites and basically gets their vital organs “up to speed.” After a few weeks they will start to move into the forests to feed and mate. A male will cover up to six miles looking for the scent trail of a receptive female (sort of an ophidian perfume–attar of rattler).

Mating takes place in July and August, and a litter of not-so-cute little snakelings (8-12) is born sometime in August–but those snakelings are the product of last summer’s mating. The product of this year’s mating will be next year’s snakes.

An individual rattler will follow a loop, starting at the den site in spring, moving out to forage and mate in the summer, and returning to the den site in fall for hibernation. They tend to follow the same loop throughout their lives, and they can live more than thirty years.

The end (couldn’t resist).

Rattlesnake rattle

Timber Rattlesnake rattle

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