Canebrake Rattlesnake

Created by Adrienne Wood


Scientific name: Crotalus Horridus

Common names are the timber rattlesnake, canebrake rattlesnake or banded rattlesnake.


The canebrake rattlesnake moves in serpentine movement.
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Considerable geographic and ontogenetic variation occurs regarding the toxicity of the venom, which can be said for many rattlesnake species. Four venom patterns have been described for this species: Type A is largely neurotoxic, and is found in various parts of the southern range. One effect of the toxin can be generalized myokymia. Type B is hemorrhagic and proteolytic, and is found consistently in the north and in parts of the southeast. Type A + B is found in areas where the aforementioned types apparently intergrade in southwestern Arkansas and northern Louisiana. Type C venom has none of the above components and is relatively weak.


Because venom is costly for a rattlesnake to produce, and you are not considered food, a snake often will not actively inject venom when it bites. In fact, nearly half of all canebrake rattlesnake bites to humans contain little to no venom, commonly referred to as dry or medically insignificant bites. Death due to a rattlesnake bite is unlikely. Canebrake rattlesnake bites in Minnesota are rare. Most bites result from people intentionally handling rattlesnakes and often involve the use of alcohol or drugs.


Their prey are mainly small mammals, but may include small birds, frogs, mice, other small animals, or other snakes. Although capable of consuming other rattlesnakes, the most common snakes they eat are garter snakes. Like most rattlesnakes, canebrake rattlesnakes are known to utilize chemical cues to find sites to ambush their prey and will often strike their prey and track them until they can be consumed. Canebrake rattlesnakes are known to use fallen logs as a waiting site for prey to pass by, giving them an elevated perch from which to effectively strike their prey, which is almost entirely terrestrial rather than arboreal (even arboreal prey such as squirrels tends to be caught when they come to the ground).


Usually found in the eastern United Sates from southern Minnesota and southern New Hampshire, south to east Texas and north Florida.


Generally, this species is found in deciduous forests in rugged terrain.

During the summer, gravid (pregnant) females seem to prefer open, rocky ledges where the temperatures are higher, while males and nongravid females tend to spend more time in cooler, denser woodland with more closed forest canopy. Females often bask in the sun before giving birth, in open rocky areas known as "basking knolls".

During the winter, canebrake rattlesnakes brumate in dens, in limestone crevices, often together with copperheads and black rat snakes.