Thursday, June 22, 2017

Timber Rattlesnakes and Striped Bass

I am and always have been an amphibian and reptile lover. I love all kinds, but pit vipers hold a special place. They are extremely impressive snakes. Their bodies are massive compared to their length and very muscular, almost always covered with beautiful patterns. In New England we only have two species of viper, copperheads and timber rattlesnakes. Neither are particularly common, but timber rattlesnakes are even less common and are a state endangered species. These snakes have very slow reproductive rates and tend to spend much of their time in groups. In the winter they gather in "dens", and during the warmer months they don't seem to go very far from those areas. Where you find one there are often others. This made it easy for some of the most atrocious acts against nature by man kind to be committed. There was a time when townships had bounties for timber rattlers, and even aside from development and deforestation that persecution had a huge impact on the population. Basically, a bunch of uninformed hicks with pitchforks and torches killed nearly harmless snakes because of baseless fears. Typical human destruction of nature.

Fortunately the mass killings were not completely successful and there are still a handful of timber rattlesnakes dens left in CT. A few yeas ago I was lucky enough to see my first timber rattler in a big pile of glacial erratics somewhere in the CT woods. When a fishing friend, Mark Phillipe, mentioned that he had always wanted to see a timber rattlesnake, that spot and the beautiful snake there came to mind and I told him I could help. So, yesterday, we went out searching for a rare venomous snake that is more placid and calm than any water snake or rat snake you will ever see. And we found them. Every time I get to see a viper of any kind I get an initial fear that waves over me, leftovers from a time when humans were walking the earth barefoot and seeing one of these bulky, diamond headed, rattle tailed animals meant danger. But that feeling doesn't last long. It is replaced very quickly with pure awe. These truly are beautiful creatures and if you are lucky enough to have seen one, that's a real blessing. If you hate snakes, kindly leave these alone. Don't dare kill one. If you do, and I see it happen.


Find all 4!

One by one, the three snakes that were out in the open calmly and slowly departed, two of them rattling as they went, The dark phase one was the last to go, and he struck a great pose right before he did. It was an amazing thing to see 4 of these gems in one little cluster, all in totally different color phases. They didn't pose any threat to us, and we let them do their thing.

In the evening Dan and I went out to enjoy nature some more. The weather was weird, the fishing was weird, and it was great. Beautiful sunset... but we all know what that means.

(Photo Courtesy Dan Klune) 

Nature is amazing. Get out and enjoy it, whether you are fishing or not.


  1. RM - that's your coolest post ever! And you have posted a LOT of cool posts! At the ripe age of 43, I've seen two copperheads here in MA, both when I was less than 20 years old - and not one since. While I admit, I have not spent a lot of time intentionally trying to find a Viper, I spend a lot of time in areas where they should be hanging out - be it scouting for deer/turkey hunting, working towards fishing grounds, hiking or mountain biking... And those two copperheads are it. Burned into my brain - amazing snakes!

    Seeing the photos here of the TR's you guys saw is just amazing. Gorgeous reptiles! What an awesome encounter! Thanks for posting it!

    1. Thanks Will!
      If you are ever in the neighborhood give me a holler and I'll get you where you need to be to see them. No promises. We were damned lucky this time.

  2. Those vipers are great. It's to bad some humans don't understand their value. I have yet to see one as big as those. The colors and patterns are amazing. They will survive.
    Tie, fish, write and photo on...

    1. They are the bulkiest of the rattlesnakes. An impressive animal, given they are not typically very long as snakes go.

  3. Good photos of the Timber Rattlers. I have seen and have taken photos and videos of them too. I got a measurement of a 51 inch rattler last fall. really cool. did not touch the snakes though but marked the location of the head and the tail and then measured the distance once the snake had moved on.