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Rattlesnakes in Tennessee 

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eastern diamondback rattlesnakes in open

Tennessee is an exciting destination for many nature enthusiasts and those looking to get acquainted with the local wildlife. One of the most captivating creatures that may surprise people is the rattlesnake which can be found in a variety of locations around the state. From the rolling hills of Middle and East Tennessee to the flatlands of West Tennessee, rattlesnakes inhabit a wide range of habitats and provide an interesting perspective on what life is like for many animals in this part of the U.S.  In this Article we will discuss the rattlesnakes in Tennessee and what danger they pose to humans.

Are there rattlesnakes in Tennessee?

While it is true that Tennessee doesn’t boast the same level of rattlesnakes as some other parts of the country, there are a handful of varieties that call Middle and West Tennessee home. The most common include Timber Rattlesnake, Eastern diamondback rattlesnake, and Pigmy Rattlesnake are native to regions surrounding Tennessee and have been known to migrate beyond their natural range so it is possible they may inhabit parts of the state in small numbers. 

Types of rattlesnakes in Tennessee

Three main kinds can be seen skittering around, the timber rattlesnake, eastern diamondback rattlesnake, and pygmy rattlesnake. 

  • The timber rattler is a sturdy snake, mostly grey or brown with a distinctive pattern of black and white stripes on its back. 
  • Eastern Diamondbacks are known for their bright yellow spot on their heads and narrow diamond pattern on their backs. 
  • Pygmy rattlesnakes range from red to light brown in colour and have weakly keeled scales which gives them their signature shine. 

Timber rattlesnakes 

rattlesnakes in Tennessee

Timber rattlesnakes found in the hills of Tennessee are a species of venomous snake. Native to the state, these snakes can easily be identified by their stout, reddish-brown coloured body with dark brown chevrons and a rattle at the end of their tail.

In Tennessee, timber rattlesnakes are mainly found in woodlands near rocky outcrops and along rivers. They vary greatly in size, ranging from 30 inches up to 60 inches and typically weigh somewhere between 3 and 7 pounds.

As far as diet goes, they prey on small rodents such as squirrels and mice as well as lizards, frogs, birds and other small mammals they come across. As for predators, raccoons, skunks, foxes, and coyotes have all been known to hunt down timber rattlesnakes as well.

Despite their venomous bite – meant to ward off potential threats – timber rattlesnakes reproduce once every two years through sexual reproduction where several dozen eggs are typically laid at a time

Interesting facts: Timber Rattlesnakes are one of the few animals in Tennessee that can climb trees.

Pygmy rattlesnakes

pygmy rattlesnakes

Pygmy rattlesnakes, also known as ground rattlesnakes, are a species of venomous snake that have adapted to life in both the hills and flatlands of Tennessee. These snakes typically grow up to be about two feet long and weigh between 4-7 ounces. They have a concolor pattern of grey, brown or yellowish-green colour with faded black crossbands running along their bodies. 

Pygmy rattlesnakes are carnivorous; feasting primarily on small rodents, skinks and lizards as a main course – although frogs, birds and carrion can sometimes make an appearance in their diet. While they are considered fairly aggressive creatures when threatened or provoked, they do possess some defence mechanisms against predators such as releasing foul-smelling musk or giving the familiar threat of a rattling tail.

 In terms of reproduction pygmy rattlesnakes mate from late spring to early summer then lay their eggs into mounds in June through August near rocky crevices which are believed to help regulate the temperature for their eggs until hatching time in September through October. 

The venom from the pygmy rattlesnake is extremely potent but due to its small size, it rarely poses deadly threats to humans even though it has been said that after being bitten by one you would experience excruciating pain spreading throughout your limb like lightning streaks over the sky.

Interesting facts: While they share much of the same DNA as other types of rattlesnakes they actually differ in their ability to accurately sense air pressure changes that act as an early warning system when detecting approaching prey or predators.

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes

eastern diamondback rattlesnakes

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes, native to Tennessee and throughout the southeastern United States, are among the largest rattlesnakes in North America. They can reach up to 4 feet in length and 4-5 pounds in weight, with their distinctive dorsal pattern consisting of diamond shapes in yellow, tan, and pink. 

They inhabit a range of habitats from coastal dunes to hardwood forests, relying on the cover of tall grass for shelter. These predators feed on small mammals such as rabbits or mice but will also eat birds, frogs, lizards or other snakes when necessary.  When threatened they respond aggressively with loud rattles or by striking out with venom injected through long fangs. 

Female Eastern Diamondbacks reproduce, often laying between 5-15 eggs a year that hatch around 40-90 days later. 

Interesting facts: Eastern Diamondbacks have been found riding on the backs of alligators while crossing water.

Staying Safe from Rattlesnakes in Tennessee

When in Tennessee, it is important for hikers and outdoor adventurers alike to stay aware of their surroundings and be mindful of potential encounters with rattlesnakes. As venomous residents of the area, these snakes are found all across Tennessee and can often be seen basking in the sun along trails or at the edge of water sources during summer months.

In order to remain safe when out on an adventure, one should always be sure to stay on well-worn paths and keep an eye out for signs of rattlesnakes such as skins, piles of leaves or thick grass that signal the presence of a sleeping snake. If encountered, one should avoid direct eye contact, never try to handle a live snake and back away cautiously while keeping it in sight until there is a clear line of escape.

References:

https://www.tn.gov/twra/wildlife/reptiles/snakes/timber-rattlesnake.html
https://www.tennessean.com/picture-gallery/news/2019/07/10/venomous-snakes-tennessee-copperhead-rattlesnake-and-cottonmouth/1695411001/
https://www.wbir.com/article/tech/science/environment/hiss-here-are-the-four-venomous-snakes-of-tennessee/51-562305847
https://www.wate.com/news/tennessee/venomous-snakes-to-look-for-in-east-tennessee/

Author Profile
Jeevan Kodiyan
Zoologist | Wildlife Conservation at Animals Research

An animal enthusiast with an interest in zoology, studying the behavior and activities of animals in the wild habitat. I work on research projects related to species conservation and endangered species protection. I also leverage zoology to become an educator, educating others about the importance of protecting our natural environment and the beauty of animals in their natural habitats.

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