Ohio’s Endangered Timber rattlesnakes

The Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus Horridus) is the most venomous snake located in the north eastern United States and one of three venomous snakes located in Ohio including the Northern Copperhead and Massasauga Rattlesnake with both rattlesnake species being listed as endangered. (OhioDNR) This snake is endangered in part due to habitat destruction and loss of den sites which they are used every year at the same location for the local snakes and their young.

The Timber Rattlesnake secrets a scent that is followed and used by their young every year to use the dens in which they are born and the deforestation of areas they are located and removal of these dens leads to many snakes without areas to overwinter contributing to their population decline in the region. This issue is directly impacted by FFW policies and many areas have protected den sites and prohibited recreational activities in den site areas to prevent possible den destruction as well as preserve areas for future populations to reproduce with the hope of bringing this large snake species out of the endangered species list.

The Ohio State park Hocking Hills has a program that tags and monitors Timber rattlesnakes to log and record their movements in their home range and between den sites to better estimated the appropriate areas that may need to be further protected in the future as well as monitor the populations stability in the area.

-(Personal Photo) Timber Rattlesnake tracked and observed at Tar Hallow during OSU Herpetology course 2018.

This snake species originally could be found in 24 counties Ohio but due to harvesting and habitat destruction they can be only found in small pockets of 8 counties today with less than fifty individuals. (OhioDNR) This snake species is the largest venomous snake Ohio has and possibly the most docile venomous snake in America with the above pictured rattlesnake showing no signs of defense posture or aggression with a group of individuals 3 feet from him. The Timber Rattlesnake like many other snake species help regulate rodent populations and provide food for other predators making them a vital part of the food web in their local areas, so the continued protection of their home ranges is vital to their continued existence.

There have been studies done with these snakes of relocating young individuals to other areas using their mothers pheromones to mark a new den site with limited success but further research and better habitat locations are needed to improve this for the future due to this snake being dependent on their home dens to survive the harsh winters in the areas they are located. The biggest contribution for these snakes continued monitoring and data obtained is from sighting by the public to better help study data collection to be obtained due to their low populations with the 2010 study only observing 23 live individuals. (OhioDNR)

The timber rattlesnake program in Tar Hallow is especially in danger due to its research not being considered useful by the Division of Forestry and only has a special use permit to continue research due to being labeled as harassment to the animals. (chillicothegazette) This program tracks and monitors the snakes in and around their home dens and is vital to research on why other populations may be seeing population declines. The letters sent by the Division of Forestry were in 2015 but as of 2018 they were still active in their efforts of tracking and monitoring the Timber Rattlesnakes located in Tar Hallow.


Works Cited

  • Nealeigh S. Tracking and protecting timber rattlesnake populations. Chillicothe Gazette. 2015 Aug 23 [accessed 2019 Jun 15]. https://www.chillicothegazette.com/story/news/local/2015/08/22/tracking-protecting-timberke-populati-rattlesnaons/32203703/
  • Wildlife ODNRDof. Ohio.gov / search. Ohio DNR Division of Wildlife. [accessed 2019 Jun 15]. http://wildlife.ohiodnr.gov/species-and-habitats/species-guide-index/reptiles/timber-rattlesnake