Photo by Dan Lindstrom
Timber rattlesnakes are identified as a "species of greatest conservation need" by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. Timber rattlesnake populations are extremely sensitive to human disturbances. The main threats include: destruction of winter den sites, collection by people, and deliberate killing.
Although rattlesnakes elicit visceral fear from many people and when harassed they can be dangerous, with proper education there is little reason that timber rattlesnakes and people cannot live safely in proximity to each other.
Are there timber rattlesnakes in our neighborhood?
Yes, but not very many. Encounters with rattlesnakes are rare here, and they tend to occur in only a few localized spots around West Meade. The vast majority of snakes encountered are non-venomous.
Will they bite me?
Timber Rattlesnakes are shy, and will bite only as a last resort - usually only when cornered or captured. If you encounter one (a rare event in itself), it is usually very easy to avoid being bitten by simply leaving it alone. Children or pets that attempt to catch the snake are at the greatest risk of being bitten. Even on the rare occasion when they do bite, they usually do not inject their full venom load. For more information about snake bite safety, please see this link.
How can I keep them away from my home?
If you happen to live in an area where you have seen rattlesnakes near your property, there are a few steps you could take to deter them from hanging out too close to your house.
For minimizing poisonous snake habitat in general, the advice boils down to: remove food, remove cover, and remove water. Specifically, within a 10m buffer area around your house, you can:
What do I do if I find one near my house?
- clear understory vegetation
remove rock/log/debris piles
remove fallen logs
maintain a lawn
maintain open canopy
refrain from leaving pet food outside that might attract rodent populations
remove bird feeders from the lawn
fix leaky garden hoses or other sources of water outside
For more information about Timber Rattlesnakes, see this fact sheet.
These animals are protected in Tennessee, and killing a snake should be viewed as an extreme last resort. In many cases, short distance relocation (within a mile or so) can effectively move snakes away from areas where they might threaten pets or children, but still allow the snakes to find their wintering den sites. DO NOT attempt to move a snake yourself! Danny Bryan from Cumberland University is willing to relocate snakes. His contact info is:
In general, it is thought that rattlesnakes do not survive long-distance relocation, presumably because they cannot find appropriate over-wintering den sites.