Can you spot the timber rattlesnake Crotalus horridus in the photograph below?
This rattlesnake's excellent camouflage is one reason why it’s a good idea to wear gators and tread carefully when visiting the woods of upstate New York. Timber Rattlesnakes are potentially one of the most dangerous snakes in North America with enough venom to kill a person. Fortunately they have a relatively mild disposition and before striking, will hold their tails high and rattle like mad to try and scare you off. If you do get too close they may strike in defence.
Rattlesnakes are sit-and-wait predators - they wait for prey to come to them. They find a suitable place, which might be alongside a track rich with the scent of mouse urine, and then they coil up like a spring. They are capable of waiting, silent and still, for several days until a mouse comes along, at which point they have enough pounce in their coils to strike up to two thirds of their body length. Instantly injecting enough venom the mouse is dead before it hits the ground.
Thankfully most snakes tend to only inject venom when they are feeling peckish. Otherwise it's a bit of a waste. So if you are bitten by a timber rattlesnake the bite is usually 'dry'... but still painful, and definitely a reason to go straight to hospital.
To reveal the location of the rattlesnake in the photo click the image below. You can see the sequence from 'Life in Cold Blood' below. This is the first time a wild rattlesnake strike has ever been caught on film.
Photograph taken by James Brickell on a shoot for 'Life in Cold Blood'
Timber Rattlesnake sequence from Life in Cold Blood