Discover Maryland's Herps

Field Guide to Maryland's Snakes (Order Squamata)

Sub-order Serpentes, Subfamily Crotalinae

Timber Rattlesnake
Crotalus horridus

Photo of Timber Rattlesnake courtesy of Scott A. Smith
Photo of Timber Rattlesnake courtesy of Scott A. Smith

Size

36 inches – 60 inches Record: 74 inches

Appearance

  • The only snake in Maryland with a rattle.

  • A triangular and flattened head with facial “pits” between each eye and nostril.

  • Vertically slit iris.

  • There are two color phases:

    (1) the yellow phase, with dark brown to black V-shaped chevrons over a yellow, gray or brown back; chevrons may break up into large spots.
    (2) the black phase, with a black head and black chevrons or blotches on a field of dark brown or black.

  • Scale are keeled.

  • Unlike our other venomous snake, the Copperhead, the young of the Timber Rattler do not have yellow-tipped tails.

  • Close-up Photo of Timber Rattlesnake Rattle courtesy of Scott A. Smith
    Close-up Photo of Timber Rattlesnake Rattle
    courtesy of Scott A. Smith

    Habitats

    Prefer upland forested areas with rocky outcrops and talus slopes.

    How to Find

    This is a shy species; they avoid areas frequented by humans. Diurnal during the spring and fall, nocturnal during summer to avoid the heat. Most active in the spring following hibernation. Warning – this is a venomous snake. Do not attempt to capture or handle. They will readily bite if provoked, and bites are extremely painful. Seek medical attention immediately if bitten.

    Photo of Habitat for Timber Rattlesnake courtesy of R. Harrison Wiegand
    Photo of Habitat for Timber Rattlesnake courtesy of R. Harrison Wiegand

    Distribution in Maryland

    Exclusively a western Maryland species, from Frederick to Garrett County, although historical records place these snakes east to the Susquehanna River.

    Maryland Distribution Map for Timber Rattlesnake

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    Maryland Amphibian
    and Reptile Atlas Project

    "A Joint Project of the Natural History Society of Maryland, Inc. and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources"

    For monthly newsletters of the Maryland Amphibian & Reptile Atlas Project click on Recent Newsletters and scroll down to the MARA Newsletters.

    The Maryland Herpetology Field Guide is a cooperative effort of the MD Natural Heritage Program and the MD Biological Stream Survey within the Department of Natural Resources and their partners. We wish to thank all who contributed field records, text, and photographs, as well as support throughout its development.