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Rattlesnakes

Major Scales

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 business.

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 removed.

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 for females.

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 help.

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.

Please 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.

Comments

rose
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.
MacKenzie Hall
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: http://www.conservewildlifenj.org/getinvolved/sightings/\r\nThe current list of NJ's rare, threatened, and endangered species is also posted on this page.\r\nThank you!
Elliot Ratchik
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.
Don Budd
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
John
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.
Joe B
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
gay carpenter
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,
solodanny
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.
ken schweiker
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!
Joe Muti
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
Maureen
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!
Lisa
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.
Jack Ouellette
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 animals!
Mike D.
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...
chief30ffd
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..
Bobby L.
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?
Rick
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!
George M
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.
JerseyJim
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. http://www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw/ensp/pdf/snakes.pdf
Jeff Slawson
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 the masses.
smithfish7
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 ignorance, Done!
Jeff Slawson
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 New Jersey.
smithfish7
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...
NJ Herpetologist
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.
smithfish7
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.
Vanessa Baque
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.
Jeff Slawson
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!
D Terry
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.
Chris Bergmann
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
Eric Rumpf
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.
Pearl Bikel
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!
James Henley
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
Russell Mehls
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
smithfish7
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!
Alex
21 May 2010, 17:23
Bob- The black snake you saw was probably a rat snake.
Jim Lafferty
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 County
Bob
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 me?
Jeffslawson
26 Apr 2010, 15:32
Sorry about the spelling and grammer errors. I typed that all out on my phone.
Jeff slawson
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.
Jonathan Clark
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 snake.
Jeff Slawson
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.
Denis Perry
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).
desiree
08 Dec 2009, 10:15
what are rattle snakes mostly like... And how could i learn more about them?
Kami Dunbar
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.
Denis Perry
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.
Denis Perry
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.
Mike Down
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.
Ed Evans
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.
Kris
07 Sep 2009, 07:35
Has anyone seen a rattlesnake or copperhead on the Paulinskill trails in Sussex County?
Heather Vanicek
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 since!
Steve Karpovich
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 experience.
Robert Frazer
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 ago.
AFA
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.
Jerome A
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!
Richard Duval
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.
Herb Wolff
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
Jim Hagan
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.
Brenda Bevis
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 Memorial Bridge.
ROY
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 one,,ever.,,,,,,,,,,,,Roy
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.
MJM
30 Jul 2008, 20:17
I just saw a huge one today up by Clinton Road. Beautiful creature.
Dave G
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.
Ken Rothmund
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.
Dana Ferrari
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.
Patty Herzog
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
bill powell
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.
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