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photo by Zach Felix
|Species Description: This
impressive snake occurs in two distinct color phases. One is the
yellow phase similar to the one pictured above. The other is black and
will be darker overall with black or dark background and black head.
Both color phases show dark chevron shaped bands along the length of the
body and a velvet black tail ending in the familiar rattle. Specimens
5 feet long are found, but most are much smaller.
Habitat: This snake inhabits areas of wooded hills and mountains. It can be found in flatter valleys occasionally but reaches its highest density in rugged mountainous terrain that contains rock outcrops, talus slopes and boulder fields. Rattlesnakes hibernate in these rocky areas and emerge in spring when air temperature rises. When weather becomes suitable snakes begin to disperse into surrounding woodlands where they spend the summer foraging for chipmunks and other rodents. Gravid female rattlesnakes tend to spend most of their time in open sunny areas that provide them, and indirectly the young rattlesnakes growing inside of her, with lots of energy.
Breeding Activity: Breeding in rattlesnakes usually takes place as the rattlesnakes emerge from their hibernaculum, the area where they hang out all winter, in the spring. Females give birth to fully developed young in late Sept. or Oct here in West Virginia. She remains with her young until they shed the first time, presumably to protect the young snakes.
Range: This species occurs in West Virginia from the eastern panhandle, through the Alleghenies south to Mingo and Mercer Counties. This distribution is likely a result of the mountainous terrain found in these areas.
Comments: The timber rattlesnake is one of the most persecuted animals in the eastern United States. Thousands of rattlesnakes are killed or moved around by organized rattlesnake "round ups" every year. These animals are often replaced in areas different than where they were captured, resulting in many negative effects for the individual. The probability of someone getting bitten by a rattlesnake, including hikers and campers, is less than that of getting struck by lightning. They are very misunderstood animals and as a result few escape an encounter with a human with their head still attached to their body.
Status: Not listed.