IDENTIFICATION: A large, heavy-bodied snake distinguished by its keeled scales, variable dorsal pattern of dark bands on a black, brown, or yellow background. The venter is light yellow, the head dark, distinctly larger than the neck, with a nostril and heat sensitive pit on each side. The pupil of the eye is vertical. The rattle on the tail tip is distinctive; however, many harmless snakes, when aroused, will vibrate their tails rapidly in dry leaves, making a sound than can be mistaken for a rattlesnake. Adult total length up to 1525 mm.
The rattlesnake's decline in Connecticut since colonial times is well documented (Petersen and Fritsch 1986; Klemens, 1993). It is presently confined to small areas of northwestern and central Connecticut, where the greatest threat to its survival is depredation by humans. Although many dens are in state forests, rattlesnakes are killed both at the dens and when they forage on private property during the summer. Rattlesnakes are a landscape species, requiring large tracts of unfragmented forest. Individuals typically forage a mile or more from their dens during the summer months. Heavy collecting pressure at well known den sites threatens the viability of many rattlesnake populations. The increasing development in areas that surround rattlesnake dens results in significant road mortality, and an increase in incidental kills associated with human encounter. This is a major contributing factor to the decline of this species, especially in the areas of southeastern Hartford County adjoining the Meshomasic State Forest. The timber rattlesnake is an "Endangered Species" in Connecticut and strictly protected on public lands from persecution and collection. Timber rattlesnakes are considered a high conservation concern throughout the northeast where most of the range states have afforded them some form of statutory protection.
Snakes | Amphibians and Reptiles in Connecticut