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Timber Rattlesnake

Photo by Suzanne L. Collins

Common Name: Timber Rattlesnake

Scientific Name: Crotalus horridus



Size: Length in Kansas up to 63 1/2 inches


Kansas range map for the Timber Rattlesnake

Range: Two populations, both restricted to the eastern third of Kansas; one in the Chautauqua Hills of southern Kansas west of the Verdigris River and a larger population found east of the Neosho River from Crawford County north to Doniphan County and west to Geary County along the Kansas River and its tributaries.

Description: Largest rattlesnake in Kansas. Pit on each side of head between and slightly below eye and nostril; large rattle at end of a jet black tail; small scales covering most of top of the head with one large scale over each eye; pattern of 18–33 dark bands or chevrons on the back. Head and body vary from pinkish gray to yellowish brown; rusty, reddish stripe often runs down middle of back. Belly grayish white. Young look like miniature adults.

Habits: Active by day during spring and fall in rugged terrain along heavily vegetated, rocky outcrops on partially forested hillsides; in summer, moves to open sparsely wooded meadows and hillsides. Prowls at night during hot weather. Five to 14 young per litter are born in August, September, and October. Feeds on small mammals, as well as on smaller snakes.

Basic Information About Snakebites

Death from snakebite is rare. There is only one documented fatality in Kansas since 1950. Snakebites still occur and knowing what to do is important for anyone who spends time in areas where venomous snakes are found.

Precautions: Always wear protective clothing when hiking the rugged areas of Kansas and never go alone. Wear gloves if possible and don’t stick your hands under rock ledges, logs or stumps. Sturdy, high boots are preferred footwear. Stay on paths or trails and watch where you walk. If you discover a venomous snake, don’t try to catch or harass it. Venomous snakes are a fascinating part of our environment. They are easy to observe and make easy subjects to photograph with an appropriate lens. Be familiar with the venomous snakes of Kansas. Learn to recognize the harmless snakes that resemble potentially dangerous ones. For example, Northern Water Snakes frequently are mistaken for Copperheads and Cottonmouths.

If you are bitten by a snake:  Was the snake venomous? If you know you have been bitten by a harmless snake, it will save you much stress and eliminate the need for treatment. Many people are bitten by harmless snakes each year and experience nothing but small scratches that readily heal. If you are certain a venomous snake was involved, get to the nearest hospital or medical facility as quickly as possible. If possible, notify them ahead of time via telephone of your situation. This gives the physician time to prepare and call the nearest poison information center for advice.

The Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center in Tucson (1-800-222-1222) maintains a list of which types of antivenins (sometimes called antivenoms) are available and can advise a physician where to call in the event of a bite from a venomous snake.

If bitten by a venomous snake:

  • Stay calm.
  • Treat for shock.
  • Drive to the nearest hospital or medical facility.
  • Do not attempt to kill or capture the snake. It gives the snake another opportunity to bite.
  • Do not use a tourniquet. If tied too tight, it may cause the loss of a limb.
  • Do not make cuts through or near the site of the bite.
  • Do not try to suck venom from the site of the bite. You might have a tooth cavity or gum sore and this would place venom into that wound.
  • Do not allow anyone, including a physician, to administer antivenin to you UNLESS you have FIRST been tested to determine whether or not you are allergic to antivenin.

Regional Poison Information Centers are also important sources of information.

Kansas Poison Control:

Mid-America Poison Control Center

24-hour Emergency Hotline: 1-(800) 222-1222


Not in Kansas?

Find your state poison control center here.