Measuring from 3-4.5 feet (91-137 cm) or more in length, the timber rattlesnake is the largest venomous snake in New York. The record length is 74 ½ inches (189 cm). Timber rattlers impress one as being very stocky; they are large snakes. Despite their size, cryptic coloration allows them to be easily concealed. Two color patterns are commonly found: a yellow phase, which has black or dark brown crossbands on a lighter background color of yellow, brown or gray, and a black phase, which has dark crossbands on a dark background. Black or dark brown stippling also occurs to varying degrees, to the extent that some individuals appear all black. Scales are ridged, giving this rattlesnake a rough-skinned appearance. The timber rattler has a broadly triangular head with many small scales on the crown of the head bordered by a few large scales, unlike the massasauga rattlesnake which has nine large scales on the top of the head.
Like other members of the pit-viper family, the timber rattlesnake has a temperature- sensitive opening, or pit, on either side of the face between and a little below the eye and nostril. This sensory organ is used to detect prey and potential predators. Another feature distinctive of rattlesnakes is the rattle itself. This structure is made of loosely attached horny segments. A new segment is added each time the snake sheds. When vibrated, the rattle makes a buzzing sound characteristic of a disturbed rattlesnake.
© Through My Lens - Dennis W. Donohue