Thursday, June 5, 2008

Venomous Snakes of East Tennessee

These photos were taken in the herpaterium at Bay's Mountain Park in Kingsport, TN of the two kinds of venomous snakes in our part of Appalachia: Timber Rattlesnakes (above) and Copperheads (below right).

More people are bit by copperheads than any other venomous snake in North America. When threatened Copperheads often 'freeze' until the threat has passed by, which leads to many people stepping on these well-camouflaged snakes. If there's any good news in this...About half of their bites are "dry" (that is, without venom) and their venom, when used, is the most mild of poisonous venom in the US. These bites, while very painful, are rarely fatal -- but still require immediate medical attention, as they can result in severe blistering, loss of use, and permanent scaring.

Timber Rattlesnakes are seen less frequently in our area than copperheads. They can be quite variable in terms of their coloring - tan, brown or black. Most are in the range of 3 to 5 feet long. Like most snakes, Timber Rattlesnakes are secretive and shy, reluctant to bite. They prefer to get out of our way. Most bites that do occur are on account of the snakes being stepped on or picked up.

Both snakes are pit vipers, with elliptical 'cat-like' pupils and heat-seeking pits located between their eyes and nostrils which help them to sense their prey. During hot summer days, these snakes usually stay hidden, becoming active at night, feeding mostly on small rodents. The advice for hikers...Just watch your step, look before you place your hands while climbing, and if you see one of these snakes, just step back and let them be. Here is a good article with specific advice for staying safe from venomous snakes in Tennessee. Click here to read my previous post about snakes.


  1. There is not anything that scares me like a snake - even just looking at their picture!

  2. i was bitten by a copperhead. true about non life threat, but cant tell you how painful. most pain i ever had.

  3. I was trying to find out which snakes are located in or around Flag Pond TN. I was told that there were no pit vipers in that area, but there were a number of non-venomous water snakes. Was that a true statement?

  4. There are northern watersnakes in that area that closely resemble the cottonmouth.

  5. we have several copperheads these days, and a few timber rattlers. it seems the snake population here is ok. fewer and fewer rattlers makes most folks happy, not me. i think all things have a place, God thought so too.

  6. Just curious. Are copperheads and timber rattlers found at elevations above 3500 ft.? 4000 ft.?


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