Story and photos by Mary Jasch
A rattlesnake sat on my lap recently. Wrapped in a
burlap bag and placed inside an open cardboard box, it rose and swayed
as it sniffed the air to determine where it was. Another timber rattler
lay beside me, snug and secure in a closed box on the truck's seat between
me and the driver, MacKenzie Hall, timber rattlesnake researcher. The
big Ford bumped its way over Ringwood State Park's dirt roads upward,
toward the two snakes' lifelong homes high in mountain country, but not
far from the crowds.
MacKenzie Hall at work in the field.
Hall pulled off the road. Carrying one bagged rattler she trudged uphill
to return it to exactly where she had captured it a week ago. She untied
the bag and it moved easily onto the ground. The snake, no longer feeling
threatened, quit rattling at us. He flicked his tongue to pick up chemical
scents to reorient himself to this former hunting spot. So far this year,
Hall's data shows that this mature snake has moved three-quarters of
a mile, perhaps looking for a female. We left him to get back to snake
Hall, a seasonal intern (in 2005) with the NJDEP, Division of Fish and Wildlife,
Endangered and Nongame Species Program (ENSP), conducted field research
for the Timber Rattlesnake Highlands Project. The Highlands are one of
the few last strongholds for New Jersey's endangered timber rattlers,
but human settlement has made their existence more visible. All of the
snakes in the study are males that were found on private properties,
whose owners contacted ENSP. The venomous snake response team rescued
the snakes. It was not that the snakes got lost, or that they enjoy human
construction. They were simply doing their snake activities on what was
once their own foraging turf. As calls flooded in it became clear that
in order to save the rattlers, biologists needed to know more about their
denning, hunting and breeding habitats.
As new development goes up the mountainsides, the snakes get pushed
out of their home range. In one recent project that abuts parkland, a
few houses were built on a favored basking area located between two dens.
The two snake populations had used this rock outcrop to warm up and help
shed their skins. It was an important area for breeding and maintaining
genetic diversity. It's now gone.
During the breeding season, July through August, they stay in the woods
to look for females. "But last year there was movement early on," says
Kris Schantz, ENSP senior biologist who heads the timber rattlesnake
research. "A new section was developed over winter. It may have
been a basking area. It's confusing and now they're wandering around
looking for a place to bask and forage. They're perhaps just as confused
as the land owner, when they show up on what was once their foraging
ground and now it's a house."
In order to track the snakes and learn their lifestyles, biologists
tuck a transmitter under a rescued rattlesnake's skin, then release him
in a wild place within a couple hundreds meters from where he was found.
This is part of their home range. "That is because timber rattlesnakes
and copperheads den for life in one place. If they are moved away from
their den, they'll spend all their energy finding it or die trying. They
know where their home is, their food and their mates and, most importantly,
their den," said Hall. The transmitters last for a year, then researchers
recapture the snakes and remove the transmitters. From spring through
fall, Hall tracks the snakes every other day with a radio telemetry unit
that picks up the unique signal assigned to each snake.
Rumbling down the road, the truck came to a stop. Hall hopped out and
brought the second male to a shrubby area where he had been captured.
She had found him coiled on a big limb facing another limb, waiting for
an oncoming chipmunk or mouse, or maybe a bird. This immature male was
mostly-yellow with dark chevrons, one of three color phases. He took
his time slithering through the brush, heading back to the same pile
of jumbled branches.
"These little guys are free now. They'll never see me again," said
Hall. The two snakes had their transmitters removed the day before, but
they still wear the blue rattle tag that marks them as captured and observed
by the ENSP.
Driving slowly through Ringwood, she held the radio antenna out the
truck window to find snake number three, one of the biggest male rattlers
she has ever seen. She planned on bringing him in to have his transmitter
Fine tuning her receiver, Hall tromped over fences and through thickets
and found the snake in a tangle of grape vines and brush surrounded by
wildflowers just where she thought she would. She had been following
him for a year now, and knew his den was two miles away. Some larger
males move two to three miles from their den, and over a mile a day looking
As she honed in on the male's radio frequency, she had her hooks at
the ready. At the ends of long poles, the hooks would hold him gently
while lowering him into the bag, but the male and his mate slipped through
the protective mass, making capture impossible. She took data: temperature,
behavior, and response to her presence, then decided to come back later,
hoping he would change location.
She records their whereabouts, what kinds of plants they hide out in,
topography, distance to closest rock and log, overhead tree species,
slope of ground, and lots of other facts about these timid snakes "to
get a handle on different habitat preferences," she says. "One
idea of the project is that you can't adequately protect any animal without
knowing any of its habits and habitats. We want to know how far they're
going, if they're eating or breeding, where they're sunning so we can
encourage protection in the right places."
Eventually, ENSP will develop a landscape model statewide map that depicts
critical species' habitats as a tool for developers, planning boards,
and other land users to know where sensitive areas exist, says Kris Schantz. "There
is now no upland habitat protection in New Jersey. We hope that developers
will be willing to work with us to minimize human rattler interaction."
The DEP will also use results of the study to educate people living
in rattler territory about venomous snakes. So far, data shows that rattlers
prefer talus slopes and outcrops for dens, and hardwood forests for foraging
where they smell for rodent corridors.
Hall struck out across one of the Ramapo Mountains, trundling across
roots and rocks, whipping through spider webs, and bushwacking through
stickers to pop in on snake number four, a male shedding on a hillside.
She collected data and went on her way to capture male number five to
have his transmitter removed. He lay under a large rock with a female,
slipping effortlessly out of reach when Hall probed gently with her hooks.
She wanted to catch the female, too, to keep the breeding pair together,
but the female hid between the rock and wiry fern stems. At last Hall
caught the male and placed him inside the canvas snake bag that this
writer boldly held, hoping the rattler would be a good boy. A rattlesnake
can strike up to half their body length, she knew. The female snake would
probably still be waiting when her mate returned a few days later.
We headed back for one more try at the male in the grape. He was still
in the vines, unattached to the female and still impossible to catch.
Timber rattlesnakes are state endangered and protected by law. They
are vulnerable animals. As part of a forest's ecology, they keep the
rodent population down and in turn are eaten by hawks, owls, other snakes,
and coyotes. They disappear in the hands of collectors, the jaws of predators,
and the shovels of bulldozers. They die crossing roads. They die because
their den becomes the home of homo sapiens.
They reproduce slowly, becoming sexually mature at eight to nine years
old. Females give birth only every three to five years. They breed in
the summer and over-winter the sperm, until early spring when the eggs
are fertilized. They give birth to live young in late September, then
recuperate for a few years.
Hall says that most people have the wrong idea about New Jersey's venomous
timber rattlesnake and Northern copperhead. "Timber rattlesnakes
are such docile animals. All they want to do is stay out of the way.
They need their venom to subdue prey, so they're not going to waste it
on just anything that comes their way."
These heavy-bodied "ambush predators" eat rodents and birds.
They don't rely on speed, just their sense of smell. They often curl
up behind a rock or a log where rodents have been, and wait, head up,
coiled, ready to strike. Be careful where you step! One summer, Hall
found one rattler almost four feet up a sugar maple with his head cocked
back facing the crotch of a double-trunked oak and waiting, perhaps,
for a bird.
From late September to early October, the snakes start making their
way back to their dens below frost line so their bodies don't freeze.
Dens face the southern sun so the snakes can come out and get warm during
fall before the weather freezes and in spring after the ground thaws.
By now, Hall thinks the snakes sort of know her. She hardly ever gets
rattled at for she approaches them slowly. They rattle, after all, only
when they feel threatened, but not to warn. "They would rather attempt
to remain invisible than make their presence known."
Please note that although the information presented here is relevant, the ENSP study referred to in this article ended years ago. You should
REPORT ANY SIGHTINGS of timber rattlesnakes—or any other of New Jersey's rare species—using the Rare Wildlife Sighting Report Form found here.
The current list of NJ's rare, threatened, and endangered species is also posted on this page at the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.
The rattlesnake's rattle is made from modified scales from the
tip of the tail which resemble hollow beads. Each time the snake
sheds its skin, a new rattle segment is added. Newborn rattlesnakes
do not have functional rattle -- they have only one segment with
nothing for it to rattle against.
Rattlesnakes are pit vipers, which means they have highly specialized
heat receptors between the eyes and nostrils that help them find
prey. The snake can judge both the distance and relative size
of its intended victim and aim the strike at the warmest part
of the target. Rattlesnakes are born live and with fully functional
fangs in the upper part of the mouth that fold in when not in
use. When the snake attacks, it unfolds its fangs to inject venom.
The venom, held in sacs on either side of the back of the jaws,
gives the pit viper's head a triangular shape.
Timber rattlesnake venom is essentially digestive, destroying
tissue and causing severe pain. If promptly and properly treated
a rattlesnake bite is not generally fatal for adult humans, although
some degree of permanent scarring is likely. Delayed or ineffective
treatment can lead to loss of a limb.
Although these snakes are relatively docile by nature, they
are extremely dangerous when frightened or challenged. Rattlesnakes
control the amount of venom they inject, usually delivering a
full dose to prey, but smaller amounts, sometimes none, when
biting defensively. A significant exception is a badly frightened
or wounded snake, or a very young snake which has not yet learned
to gauge the venom delivered. In any case, if you are bitten,
always assume that venom has been injected and seek immediate
The amount of venom injected from a snake bite, called envenomation,
cannot be easily gauged. Symptoms and swelling may occur quickly,
but in some cases hours may pass before the worst effects appear.
Emergency medical technicians gauge envenomation in stages equated
to the amount of bruising and swelling around the fang marks,
and how fast the bruising and swelling progress. In severe cases
there may be symptoms like lip-tingling, dizziness, bleeding,
vomiting, or shock. Quick medical attention is critical, and
typical treatment requires antivenin to block the tissue destruction,
nerve effects, and blood clotting disorders associated with rattlesnake
venom. Most medical experts recommend keeping the bitten body
area below the heart level, and keeping the victim calm while
transporting. It is not recommended for untrained people to make
incisions at or around bite, or to use tourniquets, since the
damage from this "treatment" can be worse from that
resulting from the bite.
REPORT ANY SIGHTINGS of timber rattlesnakes—or any other of New Jersey's rare species—using the Rare Wildlife Sighting Report Form found here.
The current list of NJ's rare, threatened, and endangered species is also posted on this page at the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.
16 Jan 2015, 10:34
I was hiking in the Taconics this past summer, lost in thought, when I
looked down and saw a timber rattler just 6 inches from my foot. I
instantly stopped and jumped back. The snake neither rattled nor bit me. It
just very quickly coiled up and watched me. While I respect their potential
danger, this is more proof for me of the basically non-agressive nature of
17 Feb 2014, 20:09
Lived in Rockland County when it was country in the 50's on an old
farmstead. There were several foundations of long gone buildings which had
dozens of rattlesnakes in them. The only time one bothered me was when I
surprised it in the fall at a campsite collecting warm charcoal and it
coiled and hissed at me. That location is now heavily developed. I ran in
one direction as it slithered off in the opposite. The other site worth
mentioning from the 50s is the Appalachin Trail at Greenwood Lake on the
NJ/NY border. We got the usual speech about listening for rattlers and
smelling cucumbers to identify copperheads; an hour up the trail from the
lake we barefoot kids passed by the first huge boulder at the top where
there were hundreds of rattler sunning themselves and sat on the second one
which we had all to ourselves.
23 Oct 2013, 08:04
Hi All,\r\nIt's great to see so much appreciation for rattlesnakes (and
other snakes) out there! Please note that this article was posted in 2005,
and comments have gone unnoticed for a long while. \r\nPlease REPORT ANY
SIGHTINGS of timber rattlesnakes - or any other of NJ's rare species -
using the Rare Wildlife Sighting Report Form found here:
list of NJ's rare, threatened, and endangered species is also posted on
this page.\r\nThank you!
18 Jun 2013, 14:33
I encountered a 2.5 ft timber rattler on a hike on the Doodletown trail in
Bear Mt, NY . It was probably quite young as the rattle was quite
small.\r\nIt was coiled when I saw it but quickly moved off. \r\nThe rattle
sound was low but distinctive.\r\n\r\nBe careful when hiking in this area.
04 Aug 2012, 07:28
About a week and a half ago I was driving on Union Valley Road in West
Milford and noticed a snake beginning to cross the road. Being a good
outdoorsman, I pulled over and directed traffic around it. It was a 3 1/2
foot long timber rattler. About 20 years ago I encountered a 2 1/2 foot one
on Terrace Pond Trail off Clinton Road and skirted hikers and a German
Shepard around this one.I am hoping this is good karma I will need some
day. In St. Augustine, FL this week a 15 foot eastern diamondback was
captured in a condo development. It sounds unbelievable, but just google
it up. Back in 1980-81, I spend a couple of spring breaks backpacking
Cumberland Island National Seashore near St. Marys, GA a pristine semi
wilderness island. We had to take a ferry boat ride to get out there. Saw
a 2 1/2 foot long cottonmouth 1st year and a 2 foot sidewinder rattlesnake
coming down a sand dune the next. When leaving on the ferry a female
ranger shared a snake experience with us where a eastern diamondback was
crossing one of the dirt roads they motorpatroled and could not determine
how long the snake was. The sighting was on roller coaster trail and we had
backpacked that same trail on that same day. Yikes! I have read about 8
footers, but more than that. Massaugua was a legendary giant swamp rattler
of American Indianlore that roamed the United States way back when. Is it
possible that there is a 15 foot timber rattlesnake roaming the highlands
of New Jersey? Happy hiking! By the way, what is your karma like? \r\n
08 Jul 2012, 17:50
Was surprised to see a timber rattlesnake in late June this year less than
2 miles up the AT on the green trail right off rt 80 at the water gap in
worthington state forest. Lived in nj 40 years and never saw one before
and this one was right on the trail. Very docile, did not rattle as we
walked by. Very cool to see they are able to survive with all the folks
that hike through here.
18 May 2012, 17:12
saw a rattler at the peak of west mountain off the suffern-bear mountain
trail in bear mountain state park last year (2011)...i was with my dog, but
i keep him on leash...i know better...\r\n\r\nit was hidden along the brush
and i had no idea it was there, till it gave me a loudddddd rattling. I
JUMPED backwards, as i never expected to hear that without knowing where it
came from. After focusing, i saw a brownish yellow diamonds looking printed
snake crossing the trail....had a long black tail section with quite a few
rattles and was pretty thick...i'd say about 4-4 1/2feet in length....after
it crossed, it wouldn't leave the brush area and i wound up going around
that section of the trail...everytime i'd try and pass him he'd rattle, so
i had no choice. \r\n\r\nwasnt the funnest time, gotta be honest..i just
got into hiking in the past 2 years and it didn't take me long to encounter
a snake. \r\n\r\nMy first near encounter was on the a.t. at the water gap
right off 80....worthington forest....that too was crossing the trail
19 Feb 2012, 12:19
lived in south jersey all my life, been fishing 50 years never see
moccasin, seen a few snakes i though where even had a few chase me,but not
moccasin,never seen a rattler either, fished everyday.hard to belive,
10 Aug 2011, 06:22
I've lived in NJ most of my life and have encounter numerous snakes.
Garter, Hognose, green, Rat, and Northern water snakes. All catch/ release.
One experience as a child that I had with a water snake, I will not soon
forget. I was fishing at Ladys Lake in Atco, when a dark colored snake was
attacking and eating a sunny. After finished the snake came towards the
edge of the water where I was. Then began to come after me. I tried to push
it away with my fishing pope, which only made approach faster. I know that
Northern Water Snakes can be aggressive but not like this. I have caught a
few since then and they were no way nearly as aggressive as the one at
Ladys Lake. I now live in Tabernacle and yesterday I found snake in my
drive way. It was very aggressive, free of provoke only presence. Looked
like a Northern Water snake in color. It was young, only about 10 inches.
There were no bands like a water snake. It resembled some of the rattle
snakes that I have seen while living in Florida and Alabama. There was no
rattle but it was shaking its tail vigorously. I am not suggesting this
snake is or is not what our text books say are indigenous. I just don't
have eyes that only see in black and white. If one were to release a batch
of snakes that are not known to that region than your expertise means
nothing. There are too many variables to consider. Get over it, it happens.
02 Aug 2011, 07:19
I hope not to cause any heated debate about cottenmouth(water moccasins) in
southern NJ but just returning from a walk in the woods and would like to
state what I saw. This is mostly low land area approaching brackish water
wetlands. A gunmetal grey snake was startled by me 5 feet away and
slithered into a drainage ditch before I could see its head. It appeared
short but fat 3-4 feet small doorknob width in middle. I want to say it was
a moccasin because when I was young on my grandfathers farm pond I startled
a snake who was the same color in appearance. Probably more startled it
than this one because we were drifting up on it in a boat when it reared
its head, hissed and opened its mouth which was pure white, which is why I
always thought it was a cottenmouth. But the learned folks in this
discussion say they do not live here. So my question to the reader is what
kind of snake has a pure white mouth? At a glance today it looked like the
same type of snake I saw many years ago. Thanks.
Nicholas R Homyak
17 Jul 2011, 15:23
Please enlighten us all on the rattlesnake fiasco at the unwanted
artificial, contracted, landscape architectural anti-organic act beach
located in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. How will the
snakes be protected from the human incursion? They are protected by law.
How could this unwanted beach on the Delaware; which by the way has unsafe
swimming aspects be allowed to continue?\r\n Yes New Jersey ha s a felt
antler species of timer rattler , yellow and green I've seen it!
25 Jun 2011, 13:24
June 25, 2011-I came upon a "V" headed snake today at the Ramapo
Reservation in Mahwah, NJ. It had no rattle, about 18" in length, stocky
and was dull in color. Another feature was on the sides of the head, pits,
were dark color. I'm assuming it was a Northern Copper head. I know it was
dangerous. My dog just walked by it unharmed. As I watched it it started to
get angry and puff up. This was the day I didn't bring a camera today, of
course.\r\nAnother party, walking dogs, came across a Timber Rattler and
took some photos. It was near the top of MAcMillian Lake by a well traveled
path.\r\nMy question is, where is the best place for treatment if a person
or dog is bitten near the Ramapo Reservation? On a weekend?\r\nI went
online and printed out hospital, clinic and vet locations nearby to carry.
But what would be the best immediate treatment?\r\nit's too bad these
animals have to suffer with man's encroachment. We should develop our run
down urban areas first.-j
05 Jun 2011, 16:15
Just saw a timber rattlesnake at Water Gap. It was crossing the path
(thankfully white gravel path so it was easy to spot) going down to Turtle
Beach. Our 7 year old grandson was with us - very cool encounter!
14 May 2011, 05:50
To Smithfish7...Don't tell me there are no coyotes in New Jersey. We see
them often on our property in lower Cape May County. More sightings than I
want to write about, but absolutely here, thriving and with growing
numbers. A mother w/ pups was on the other side of my chain link fence last
year, growling away at my beagle who decided then to protect his yard and
be a tough guy.
13 May 2011, 18:03
I live in Mass but was stationed down at Dix for some schooling and did
some land Nav training and other field operations there. Are there any
Poisonous snakes on Dix? \r\n\r\nAs an aside, I was dispatched to a
street where I patrol (I'm a motorcycle Police Officer) for a Timber
Rattlesnake a truck driver found sunning itself near the backof his truck.
He heard it rattle and even though he never had experince with snakes KNEW
what it was. This property abuts the Blue Hills Reservation which is one of
the last dens in the state for this snake and it is also protected here. It
was huge, 5 1/3 feet, very thick bodied with triangular head,pit on its
nose and a bright yellow coloring. He was mostly docile but the truckers
wanted me to shoot it! I said no need to he will go back to the woods. I
walked over near him (My unfirm has calf high black leather motocycle
boots-highly spitshined) and I knew they could strike almost half thier
length so I didnt get too close ossed a rock near him but he just layed
there. no rattle.I grabbed a stick and put it near him he rattled twice and
eventually went back to the woods,Very exciting! We need to protect these
12 May 2011, 13:03
Why not keep it simple...Instead of wasting valuable financial resources
and important tax dollars on a damn Timber Rattler, why not drive to
Oklahoma, Waurita, OK to be exact, and pick up several hundreds that are
killed each year in the Waurita, OK Snake roundup? Wouldn't you want to
repopulate instead of spending valuable tax dollars "researching" these
creatures? If you feel they're endagered, go grab yourself a few...they'll
learn to survive. Or it wasn't meant to be...
03 May 2011, 07:46
a few things to add to some of the comments i have read.. its so sad that
our northern water snakes are often killed due to mistaken idenity. so
often friends call me and tell me they just say a copperhead or water
moccasin. as always they take a picture and everytime they send it to me
im looking at a northern water snake.we in my state NJ have two venomous
snakes. the timber rattle and the northern copperhead. i can see a little
confusion on the mistake of the northern water snake compared to the
copperhead to someone not educated on snakes. i.e. younger northern water
snakes colors are bright and have patterns but are brighter than the
copperhead. as northern water snakes age they become more dull almost
blackish so it can be mistaken as the moccasin.. again, not north of
v.a.... however, remember.. its a crazy world we live in and who's to say
some twisted person didnt catch a few moccasins and release them in our
area... moccasins,rattle snakes and copperheads are all pit vipers.all are
very stout bodied.. unlike the northen water snake..the northern water
snake is of the (colubrid family) just like the garter snake.. harmless.
the northern water snake will bite when provoked..their bites will bleed
profusly due to the anticoagulant quality of their salvia.. if your not
sure of the snake please just leave it alone...so if they are seen basking
on a rock chillin out enjoying their day let them do so.. venomous or not
there is no need to smash them with a rock..
25 Apr 2011, 16:34
I fish all over NJ and was under the impression that certain snakes were
not common or did not exist at all in NJ.\r\nBut a seemingly informed
gentleman at the Colliers Mills WMA in Ocean Co. told me that many snakes
inadvertantly make their way north from southern states via military planes
coming into the bases in NJ, ie: Dix, McGuire, and the Navy base in Ocean
and Burlington Cos. Supposedly, the snakes get onto the cargo planes and
simply slither off as the crates and cargo are offloaded in NJ. Is this in
fact possible? Couldn't a species from down south survive a summer in the
NJ pinelands before the winter killed it off?
21 Apr 2011, 22:29
While I would have to agree that cottonmouth water moccasins are not COMMON
in NJ, they ARE around! I really could give a rats ass if you choose to
believe me or not, but this I KNOW for a FACT. My younger brother was
BITTEN by a Cottonmouth around 1978, & rushed to the ER for it. This
happened right in Camden County NJ. The Cottonmouth came up thru a storm
drain & bit my brother right on his leg! He was rushed to the ER & LUCKILY
recieved anti-venom for the bite, otherwise he would have died! So...
Although I would tend to AGREE that it is VERY UNLIKELY that anyone in NJ
will EVER see one in their lifetime, they ARE around!
29 Mar 2011, 18:11
Today is 3-29-11, and while putting out recycling (I'm in Long Valley) I
heard a rattle. I'm assuming it's way too early for a timber rattler to be
out and about? I don't think there are any cicadas either. I wasn't sure
what I heard at first, even though it was a rattling sound, but when I
shook the recycle container again whatever it was definitely rattled and
sounded annoyed. I couldn't see anything because it's completely dark out
and I don't have lights in that area. I'm slightly concerned because it's
by my garage and I'd rather not have a rattler in there. Anyway, I'm
assuming it's something else this early in Spring, but I have no idea. Any
thoughts? Thanks - and very informative article!\r\n\r\nOh, and my son and
I saw a timber rattler last summer while hiking down from Mt Tammany - we
were a little spooked.
15 Mar 2011, 20:46
Smithfish7, I have to agree with Jeff Slawson and NJ Herpetologist on the
"cottonmouth" bite your friend received. I am 100% certain you are
confusing the Northern Copperhead that bit your friend, with the Water
Moccasin aka Cottonmouth. Copperheads have been known to be near water so
it is quite obvious he was tagged by a copperhead. As far as the snakes
you "rid" from the area, those were most definitely HARMLESS Northern Water
Snakes. The link below should clear up any confusion you have.
27 Jan 2011, 23:06
You are making the mistake of confusing a correct statement with ignorance.
There is a difference. I, for one, am very far from under educated on this
subject. Cottonmouths are not adapted to the cold climate. Hence, they are
a SOUTHERN species. The invasive species that thrive in Florida do so
because the mild sub-tropical climate of that bio-region is close enough to
the species own home range. Case in point, when Florida experiences
freezing temperatures, those invasive species die off in mass quantities.
You DO NOT know a person who was bit by a wild cottonmouth in New Jersey.
Period. Don't take my word for it, bring this argument to
fieldherpforum.com. A forum dedicated to research and field work with
reptiles and amphibians. Let the thousands of people there mock you for
your ignorance and inability to accept that you are wrong. Conversely,
maybe you will actually learn a little bit. In the field people like myself
spend countless hours trying to educate the public and undo the damage
caused by people like you who spread lies and cause unreasonable fear in
27 Jan 2011, 20:47
There are snakes that survive through the winter in N.J. So what would stop
the Cotton Mouth? Like in Florida, they have discovered about 6 different
species of snakes that are not indigenous to Florida.\r\nIt's called
migratory adaptation for you strict to the book pseudo scientist. I told
you I know a guy who got bit by a cotton mouth in N.J. I can't argue with
27 Jan 2011, 09:49
As the person under your last post pointed out, just as I have, the
cottonmouth does not range this far north. It would not be able to survive
the cold climate of the Northeast. Believe what you want, keep killing
innocent harmless snakes and continue spreading fear to people who do not
know any better if that is what makes you feel like a big man. There is no
point in arguing with you any further. You are obviously way to stubborn to
admit the truth. And yes, for the record, coyotes most certainly do inhabit
26 Jan 2011, 18:57
Say, think or use all the scientific names you want to try impress the
crowd. I don't\r\ncare if you believe it or not?, I know what I know, you
think what you think?, Butt you know where thought comes from!\r\n\r\nNo
African Killer Bees or Coyotes or Snake Heads in Jersey either? But we sure
got a lot of know it alls...
26 Jan 2011, 17:32
Smithfish7... You are lying, misinformed, or just plain wrong. Agkistrodon
piscivorus (the water moccasin) does not range any further north than lower
Virgina. There have never been any populations of A. piscivorus found in
New Jersey or bordering states. There are also NO records of envenomation
caused by wild A. piscivorus in New Jersey. That species simply does not
occur here. Thank you.
26 Jan 2011, 16:48
Jeff Slawson Sir, You see what I mean? You are one of those who think going
by the book always stands true? For the record, I also know a guy who got
bit by a Moccasin at the N.J. Delaware Water Gap and was hospitalized for a
week. There are also Moccasins and Timber Rattlers where I Trout fish at
Lake Pemberton. Thank You.
26 Jan 2011, 12:49
I have had a beautiful 3 and 1/2 foot timber rattlesnake living in a stone
wall behind my house for two years. The first time I saw it, it scared the
wits out of me. My husband told me to leave it alone and it wont bother me.
He was right. I have grown fond of it, and look foward to the spring to see
it again. it is very placid. I never even heard it rattle once. when we
approach, it slowly slithers back into the retaining wall.
25 Aug 2010, 18:11
Smithfish7, Clearly you must be referring to yourself in the know-it-all
category. Simply put, there are NO (ZERO-ZIP-ZILCH) water
moccasin/cottonmouths North of extreme southern Virginia. Congratulations,
you irresponsibly killed harmless Northern Water Snakes. Go you!
31 Jul 2010, 18:31
I encountered a Timber Rattler today on Blue Disc trail in Harriman
(Sloatsburg, NY). Medium sized about 3.5 ft long. Rattled when he heard
us coming, so we stayed out of his way.
31 Jul 2010, 17:13
I was mountain biking in Ringwood State Forrest on July 31, 2010 and came
across a 4 foot long rattler. He was crossing the trail and I almost ran
him over. He didnt rattle, he just slithered off the trail. It really
freaked me out for the rest of the ride
20 Jul 2010, 09:04
I am visiting from california (grew up in nyack) w/ brother and family,saw
apprx 4 to five foot timber on road to abandoned 'breakneck camp' or lake
in Harriman state park. Initially heard very loud rattle\r\n(resembling a
cicada swarm) then saw snake about 10 feet away. I called my son and sister
in law and they got to witness this shy creature as well. It was the first
rattler my sister has ever seen even though she and her family are avid
campers and hikers. Day of incident was: 7/18/2010.
04 Jul 2010, 13:31
Today, while hiking around Skyland Manor and New Jersey Botanical gardens,
saw an approximately 3-4 foot snake stalk, leap and capture a large frog,
then drag it back into the brush to gather into its mouth in the back of
the moraine garden. Wild kingdom!
23 Jun 2010, 12:02
Patty Herzog,water moccasins are a southern snake,and are never found north
of Virgina.What you saw was,most likely,a commom northern water snake.By
your disciption of the snake's behavior,I am almost positive that it was a
commom water snake.They are very mean spirited and agressive when they are
defending their territory
20 Jun 2010, 21:41
About snakes in NJ; The milk snakes are often referred to as checkered
adders because if you turn them over, the belly scales take on a
checkerboard pattern. The black rat snakes are also called pilot black
snakes and differ from the black racer in that they are constrictors and
the scales shiny. Black racers are very fast, a nervous snake that often
vibrates it's tail when confronted and have slate black to bluish smooth
scales.\r\nPlease don't kill or injure snakes. \r\n
01 Jun 2010, 23:32
\r\n Not to offend the know-it-alls, but certain people in this world THINK
they know everything. I grew up in central Jersey near Trenton. I hunt and
fish. I have seen and rid Water Moccasins around where I grew up. I also
know people who have been bitten by Cotton Mouths in Jersey. I also know of
someone that lived in the Trenton area that had a nest of Rattlers in his
basement in the early 1980's. You don't have to believe it, but if you are
an outdoors type of person beware they are here. We don't have control of
where the wild ones roam!
21 May 2010, 17:23
Bob- The black snake you saw was probably a rat snake.
16 May 2010, 15:54
Can you tell me if there are Rattlesnakes or Copper heads in South Moutain
Resevation in Essex County .\r\nAnd Black River reservation in Morris
10 May 2010, 07:34
I saw a comment that snakes other than rattlers sometimes rattle their
tales. I came upon a black snake in the woods behind my house Saturday.
Wisely or not, I touched it with a stick to get it to move off the trail,
but it turned and looked at me and its tail began to rattle. I saw no
rattle on the tail, and it was all black, not colored like a rattlesnake.
Its head was shaped more like a garter snake, not arrow shaped.
\r\n\r\nShould I be concerned, with it living so close to my house? It
eventually gathered into a squirming mass, then disappeared into the
ground. Is that likely where its den is? Or was it just trying to escape
26 Apr 2010, 15:32
Sorry about the spelling and grammer errors. I typed that all out on my
26 Apr 2010, 15:16
What you saw was most likely a black racer or a black rat snake. Many
non-venomous snakes will rattle their tale when they are agitated and in
the right conditions (dry leaves for example) it will even sound like a
faint rattle. April 24 is a bit early for timber rattlesnakes to be
traveling away from their dens. Timbers are also a very stout snake and
even the juviniles are obviously more heavy bodied then non-venomous snakes
of our area. As far as the eyes being red, it was most likely due to
reflection. The only snake in our area that comes to mind with red eyes in
our area is the eastern milksnake however the rest of your description
doesn't match a milk. Rat snakes can have realatively large heads and may
retain some white coloration from when they were juveniles. Rat snakes are
typically a large gentel species. Racers on the other hand are quite snappy
and will often coil into a s shape when cornered they will rattle their
tails and continue to move laterally through their coils.
26 Apr 2010, 14:32
I was hiking in the Ramapo Mountains on Saturday, April 24. I started out
from Skyline Drive on the Todd trail and slightly before I reached the
Schuber trail I saw a snake. It was black and about 4 feet long and curled
to strike. My dog saw it first and stopped and I could hear the the rattle
in the snake's tail. It was relatively skinny and the eyes were red. We
circled around it and continued on our way. I believe it was a timber
rattler, but from the pictures I have seen most are far more colorful. I
am interested in any insights you can give me as to the identity of the
02 Feb 2010, 08:52
Reading the comments here gives me hope that maybe with enough public
education rattlesnakes will be less persecuted. As an amateur herpetologist
I seek out and photograph this amazing species every year. They are a
beautiful and amazing species to find and observe in the wild but I fear
ignorance, fear, and development will lead to their demise all too soon.
08 Dec 2009, 13:52
Kami... I would love to see the pics you mention. My e-mail address is
"Spector58@aol.com". I will comment on your question once I see
them.\r\n\r\nDesiree: i'm not sure what your asking. If you could be more
specific, I would be happy to answer you. My e-mail address is above. I
will say this: Timber Rattlesnakes are very inoffensive and gentle
creatures. They will very rarely, if ever, strike unless severely provoked.
They just want to be left alone, being very solitary animals. If you see
one, do not be afraid. They are beautiful and inoffensive creatures. I came
across one recently in Harriman S.P. and it actually seemed "friendly". I
sat within a few inches of it and ate my lunch. It simply sat there and
watched me without so much as a single rattle. At one point it attempted to
crawl right over me. I did in fact move at that point because I am one not
to take unnecessary risk, but i'm very sure if I hadn't moved, it would
have simply crawled right over me and went it's own way. It is so sad to
know people kill them out of ignorance. They are beautiful gentle animals
that provide a great service to humanity by eating rodents that could
easily become far too numerous to cause problems. (and no, I don't hate
rodents and in fact consider Chipmunks adorable, but there has to be some
control of them... otherwise they become far to overabundant).
08 Dec 2009, 10:15
what are rattle snakes mostly like... And how could i learn more about
01 Dec 2009, 21:12
We came across a rattle snake with what seems to be a blue painted tail. I
am curious if it is on of the blue tagged snakes you mention. We have
photos. Let me know if you would like to see them.
12 Nov 2009, 08:17
Oh, and one more thing: both Rattlesnakes and Copperheads are considered
endangered and are protected, so please DO NOT throw rocks at them! That is
definitely a no no... lol.
12 Nov 2009, 08:14
Just a note to a couple of posters: Patty Herzog, there are NO Water
Mocassins anywhere in or near NJ. Extreme southern Virginia is where the
northermost range is, and then south from there to Florida. What you saw
was a completely harmless water snake. The only venomous snakes in NJ are
Rattlers and Copperheads, neither of which spend any time in
water.\r\n\r\nTo Richard Duvall: there is no such thing as a Striped Adder,
here or anywhere in the world. I have no idea what you saw, but if it was
striper in any way, it was not venomous. Perhaps you saw a Garter snake,
which are usually striped.
22 Oct 2009, 14:22
Saw my first timber rattle snake today while hiking in Ramapo reservation
near the lookout. It was such a warm sunny day for October and I figured
they would be sunning themselves on the south side of the mountain. It was
a smaller one who pretty much minded his own business and I was able to
take a few pictures before continuing on my way.
07 Oct 2009, 06:32
I was traveling in my car with my niece and sister on sunrise mtn. road
between the overlook and the flatbrook river.When this five ft. rattlesnack
crossed the road.I have been hunting,fishing and backpacking in the area
for 25 years and that was the first rattlesnack I have ever seen in N.J.We
were commenting on the new signs about rattlers and copperheads we had seen
in the park just an hour before.It was neat to see and it made my weekeend.
07 Sep 2009, 07:35
Has anyone seen a rattlesnake or copperhead on the Paulinskill trails in
02 Sep 2009, 21:10
I was hiking the Appalician Trial in Vernon, NJ. Its the part of the trail
that starts on Route 94 by Heaven Hill Farm. Not more then 5 minutes into
my hike there lay a rattle snake halfway in the pathway. I thought it was
dead because its head and upper body were hidden in the brush and only its
hind end and tail were exposed. After throwing a small rock at it to see
if it was alive it coiled up and started rattling at me. I was able to
snap a few pictures but left the trail right away. I haven't returned
31 Jul 2009, 12:00
After a few years of hiking in rattlesnake terrain, I finally saw my first
timber rattlesnakes this summer. Six in one day on an isolated mountain in
the Berkshires of Mass., and 2 this month in the Lake George, NY mountains.
Very beautiful critters. Some seemed docile and unconcerned by my presence.
Others seemed afraid of me. In any case, seeing them was a peak wildlife
27 Jul 2009, 17:23
Today I encountered a Timber Rattlesnake while hiking down Buttermilk Falls
trail in Delaware Water Gap. I only saw it after it had rattled at me and
I snapped a picture of it while entering its rocky den. I was rushing down
this steep trail from the AT due to an approaching storm. I'm glad I did,
now I can proudly add this incredible creature to my list of NJ wildlife
Ive seen. I saw a bear almost in the exact same location only a few months
20 Jul 2009, 18:20
I just saw one today (7/20/09) in Crater Lake. I didn't know we had
rattlers in the state so I looked up what it was and sure enough its
exactly what I saw. It was lying next to the big rock that overhangs the
lake, a popular spot for my friends and I. It didnt rattle even though we
passed within 2 ft of it. I heard the bushes rustling and when I came
closer I saw the awesome 3-4ft snake and its rattler.
07 Jul 2009, 17:54
well, Harriman State Park is not in Jersey but close enough to count... saw
a big and beautiful one on 7/7/09, on a seldom-traveled trail. got very
close to it without noticing, so it gave us a good rattle to warn us away!
20 Apr 2009, 17:22
I fly fish the section of the Deerfield River from Fife Brook Dam down
to the area near the railrod's Hoosic Tunnel. Much of this area looks
like prime rattlesnake country, but I've never seen one, just water snakes
and striped adders.\r\n However,a friend of mine swears that when he was
walking in his backyard near the forest in this general area, a timber
rattlesnake struck at the toe of his work boots but was unable to penetrate
the thick leather.
06 Oct 2008, 19:00
I encountered a timber rattler on the Crater Lake Trail segment between the
AT and Hemlock Pond in the the Delaware Water Gap NRA. It was lying in the
trail when I saw it about three feet ahead of me. It rattled and slithered
off into the woods as I approached. It was a beautiful medium-brown in
color.\r\n\r\nJust three minutes earlier, I had encountered a blacksnake
also bathing in the sun on the same trail segment. \r\n\r\nIt was about 55
degrees at the time. I assume the snakes are seeking all the sun they can
get, and are about to go into their dens for the winter
13 Sep 2008, 15:50
I just came across a new born in Ramapo Reservation in Mahwah. It was just
over a foot long. No rattles yet, just the black twigish thing on the end.
Really cool looking..took a bunch of pictures.
03 Sep 2008, 12:30
I have a question. Are timber rattle snakes found in South Jersey? Last
year I think I saw one in my back yard. I live near the Delaware River
19 Aug 2008, 19:45
hi,,I live in British Columbia,,,Canada,,,,and we have thousands of Western
Rattlers here in the central southern part of the province. There is a town
near the U.S.border called Osoyoos (Indian) on Hiway 97 and in the area
they have about 1200 dens and about 50-400 snakes per den ! You do the
math and that's a small area. These have round blothes ond brown or sandy
colors and they are great to watch. It's funny ,,the people that have lived
there all thier lives will tell you that they have never seen
thomas j rittenhouse
05 Aug 2008, 17:28
I almost ran over a 4 foot timber rattler on old mine road near Dingmans
Bridge. Took video and pictures with my cell phone. It was a beauty. It
moved very slow across the road, i made sure it had safe passage to the
other side. Very cool to see. I turkey hunt and fish the area made me
realize that they are in fact one of NJs residents.
30 Jul 2008, 20:17
I just saw a huge one today up by Clinton Road. Beautiful creature.
29 Jul 2008, 20:06
I just photographed a Timber Rattlesnake just after it was hit by a car.
The head was crushed, the body and rattle was still living and rattling. It
was a big snake with 19 plus bands of characteristic pattern, 7 inches of
black tail plus rattle, plus its tapering viper head. This road kill was
west of New Gretna, NJ. Pictures available upon request. \r\nDave G.
21 Jul 2008, 19:21
I took my sons for a weekend camping trip at the Lakota Wolf Preserve in
Columbia New Jersey. A Timber Rattle Snake decided to join us for dinner.
It was beautiful, it had a black head and body with brownish yellow
patterns. I am an avid snake and reptile enthusiast and have seen and
studied many different kinds of reptiles but have never seen anything like
it. The snake gave me enough time to let me show my boy's and tell them all
about it and let us see it in the wild. After taking some great pictures
(from a safe distance) it decided it had enough of us and slowly slithered
away. It took forty years to see something like that in the wild and it was
worth the wait.
27 May 2008, 05:19
Over memorial day weekend my husband and I took our three kids 5, 3 and 10
mos. to Sunrise Mt.? behind Stokes and we went up to the pavillion and on
the way we met up with a rattler, we had heard and seen him, he was dark in
color. There was many hikers this day, so I can only assume by the time he
heard us, he was mad. All in all, it was our first time ever seeing one,
we went to the top to the pavillion and we watching the hawks and checking
out the beautiful scenery. This is such a beautiful place to live.
15 Mar 2008, 15:59
Hello Ms. Jasch,\r\nI found your article very interesting. I had no idea
the Timber Rattler was endangered. My family spends alot of time hiking and
fishing. Last year we were fishing in the Great Swamp in Millington and
were pretty much chased out of our favorite fishing spot by a water
moccasin. He pretty much came out of the water towards us. I don't know
if it was just checking us out or didn't us there. Needless to say, we
left. I want to ask you if you know what hospitals in New Jersey know how
to treat a snakebite. I really don't think any hospitals around here have
any idea, living in such a populated area. If you could help me out I would
really appreciate it. Thank you,\r\nPatty Herzog
18 Feb 2008, 18:14
I took several older scouts on the AT through Kittaniny several years ago.
We saw, photo'd, and video'd three rattlers that were among the most
beautiful animals I have encountered in the wild. None of the three were
aggressive. Two were greenish yellow,the third was copper colored. The
sightings made my trip.