Kyle Carroll's Outdoor Journal
The Outdoor Journal
“There’s no sound quite like it, or as viscerally terrifying: the ominous rattle of the timber rattlesnake. It’s a chilling shorthand for imminent danger, and a reminder of the countless ways that nature can suddenly snuff us out. Yet most of us have never seen a timber rattler. Though they’re found in thirty-one states, and near many major cities, in contemporary America timber rattlesnakes are creatures mostly of imagination and innate fear.”
That’s the blurb on the Amazon website for the 2016 book, America’s Snake, the rise and fall of the timber rattlesnake, by Ted Levin. I can’t recommend the book yet because I haven’t read it, but I like the books epilogue:
“For our kind, rattlesnakes are coiled, tails vibrating, fangs at ready to poison us. It’s as if we formed our entire knowledge of automobiles from head on collisions.”
That’s pretty good. According to Levin’s book, Tiber Rattlers can limit the injection of venom into their prey to one fang if they choose to and to none at all. Sometimes they don’t bite even when provoked. Timber Rattlers can use the muscles in their tail to shake the rattle up to 90 times per second for an unlimited amount of time. Once found in at least 31 states, including all the original 13 colonies, the timber rattler is now either extinct or endangered in several states.
Females typically don’t breed until they are at least six years old and then according to the book, “once every three to six years after that. And although a timber rattler can live more than 40 years, the fact that it usually returns each fall to the den in which it was born.” This is why I think we see a few more snakes in years where there is a lot of activity at a rock quarry or when a new lake is built. A few of those snakes are displaced and get noticed on the highway or gravel road seeking a new home.
During the late summer months, rattlesnakes hunt at night, so you should be careful walking wooded trails this time of year. (In 27 years as a conservation agent working northwest Missouri, I never encountered one in the dark.) They are pretty rare.
The MDC website reminds us, “This snake, like many others, uses camouflage to avoid being seen; however, it will bite if harassed. It is dangerously venomous, and medical attention must be sought immediately if someone is bitten.” The good news is snake bites are extremely rare. Car keys are the best first aid if you need to assist someone that has been bitten.
The MDC website says: “The Wildlife Code of Missouri treats snakes, lizards, and most turtles as nongame. This means that there is no open season on these animals, and it is technically unlawful to kill them. There is a realistic exception, however: when a venomous snake is in close association with people, which could result in someone being bitten. We hope that more people realize that snakes are interesting, valuable, and, for the most part, harmless.”