Canebrake Rattlesnake Canebrake Rattlesnake
Canebrake Rattlesnake

Scientific Classification

Common Name
canebrake rattlesnake, timber rattlesnake, velvet-tail rattlesnake
Viperidae [Subfamily Crotalidae]
Genus Species
Crotalus (rattle) horridus (rough or prickly) atricaudatus

Fast Facts

The canebrake rattlesnake is a heavy-bodied snake. Color is pale grayish-brown to pink, with a pattern of dark-brown to black V-shaped cross bands and a russet stripe down the centerline of the back. (The rusty stripe distinguishes a canebrake from a common timber rattler.) A broad, dark stripe angles back from the eye, and the tail is velvety black.
Adults average 1.2 m (4 ft.) in length, but some individuals reach lengths of 180 cm (6 ft.)
Average weight is 2.3 kg (5 lb.); maximum is 4.5 kg (10 lb.)
Canebrake rattlers are carnivorous, feeding on small mammals and birds such as rabbits, rice rats, and birds.
2 months
Reproduction is ovoviviparous - the young develop in eggs that the female retains inside her body. The young hatch from the eggs, then the mother gives birth to the live young.
Clutch Size: 4-17 young are born at a time
Sexual Maturity
3-9 years
Life Span
10-15 years, depending on the size of the snake
Canebrakes range from the northernmost portion of Florida and west central U.S. to Texas.
They inhabit lowland areas such as edges of marshes and swamps, cane thickets, wooded hillsides, heavy timber, and dead tree hollows.
Gobal: No data
IUCN: Not listed
CITES: Not listed
USFWS: Not listed

Fun Facts

  1. Rattlesnakes are classified as pit vipers because of facial pits found below and between the eye and nostril on both sides of the head. The pit is highly sensitive to infrared radiation (heat) and serves as a direction finder in locating warm-blooded prey or predators.
  2. Rattlesnakes have a special feeding system based on venom, injected into prey through teeth called fangs.
  3. When approached, rattlesnakes normally remain motionless and quiet, relying on excellent camouflage. If cornered however, they will stand their ground.
  4. The rattlesnake uses its rattle to warn other animals of its presence, so it doesn't have to waste venom on defense.
  5. The rattle is a series of hard segments made of keratin. A new segment is added each time a snake sheds its skin. When shaken, the segments vibrate against each other, producing a familiar buzz.
  6. Don't be fooled by the rattling motion - there are several snake species (black racer, milk snake, hognose) that vibrate their tails when cornered.
  7. The age of a rattlesnake is not evident by the size or number of segments in its rattle. The rattle is often broken off after a couple of years. An adult rattlesnake that has the original button at the tip of its tail is rare.

Ecology and Conservation

These snakes are an important food source for hawks, owls, foxes, coyotes, and raccoons.

Canebrake rattlesnake populations are believed to be in decline in many states. Pet trade and killing out of fear are a large problem facing them today.

Canebrake rattlesnake populations are believed to be in decline in many states. Pet trade and killing out of fear are a large problem facing them today.

These snakes, as with other species of rattlers, are also destroyed by annual "rattlesnake round-ups" that occur in several states in the U.S. Proceeds from these events often benefit several prominent charity organizations.


Ashton, Ray Jr. and Patricia Sawyer Ashton. Reptiles and Amphibians of Florida: Part One, the Snakes. Miami. Windward Pub., 1988.

Mehrtens, John M. Living Snakes of the World. New York. Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. 1987.

Tyning, Thomas F. Conservation of the Timber Rattlesnake in the Northeast. Massachusetts Audubon Society, Lincoln, MA. 1990.

Houston Zoo.