What Eats Timber Rattlesnakes?

Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Updated: January 30, 2023
© Scott Delony/Shutterstock.com
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Key Points:

  • In general, these snakes are apex predators in the wild.
  • There are, however, a few other animals that eat timber rattlesnakes that have specialized methods for eating them.
  • Timber rattlesnakes are very venomous and should be taken seriously!

Timber rattlesnakes are the third largest venomous snake in the United States. They can get to be 5-6 feet long and weigh around 1-3 pounds. Rattlesnakes are considered apex predators so there are not a lot of predators that are going to take on a large venomous snake. However, there are a few other snakes that are immune to venom that will attack and eat rattlesnakes. There are also a variety of animals that will prey on young and juvenile timber rattlers. Let’s take a look at what eats timber rattlesnakes!

What is a Timber Rattlesnake?

Timber rattlesnaake coiled in a loop
Timber rattlesnakes are the third largest venomous snake in the United States.

©Frode Jacobsen/Shutterstock.com

Timber rattlesnakes (also called canebrakes) live in the eastern United States, including states from eastern Texas over to South Carolina, up to New York and west to the edge of Minnesota, the eastern edge of Iowa and down to Texas. These rattlesnakes have a triangular head with its neck getting smaller leading into a long medium-thick body. At the end of its tail is a series of “buttons” that rattle as a warning to predators. Rattlesnakes are pit vipers so they have two openings on the side of their heads that are used to seek prey by heat-sensing. They have three different color varieties, but the most common ones have a base color that is tan with dark brown markings and a rust-colored stripe going down the length of their body. Some are quite a bit darker in color with fainter markings as well.

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Where Do Rattlesnakes Live?

These pit vipers can survive in a wide variety of habitats including deserts,forest,grasslands, scrub, and swamps. They can be found in the Americas from Canada’s southern regions through Mexico, Central America, and South America. However, they tend to thrive in North America’s southwestern regions.

Are Timber Rattlesnakes Poisonous (Venomous)?

A Timber Rattlesnake striking prey
Timber rattlesnakes can deliver dangerous venomous bites.

©Joe McDonald/Shutterstock.com

Yes, Timber rattlesnakes are very venomous and harmful to humans if bitten, but bites be treated at medical facilities. Their venom is what makes them a dangerous predator and a creature not many animals will try to eat.

What Eats Timber Rattlesnakes?

Snakes in Mississippi - Eastern Black Kingsnake (Lampropeltis nigra)
Kingsnakes are immune to the venom of rattlesnakes so they are one of the animals that eat timber rattlesnakes.

©Matt Jeppson/Shutterstock.com

Kingsnakes and Eastern indigo snakes eat timber rattlesnakes. Both of these snake species are immune to the venom and are not afraid to take on a snake that is bigger than them.

  • Kingsnakes are known to be aggressive snake-eating snakes, preferring snakes over small rodents in some cases. The Wildlife Resource Division in Georgia confirmed that a video of a snake swallowing another large snake was indeed an Eastern kingsnake eating a timber rattlesnake. In Dexter, Georgia, a woman videotaped the incident. Kingsnakes are known to eat not just rattlesnakes but cottonmouths and copperheads as well.
  • Eastern indigo snakes are the largest native snakes in the U.S. with a length of 60-82 inches long. They are a medium-bodied black snake with a rust or orange colored chin. They prefer reptiles over small mammals and don’t mind eating venomous snakes like the timber rattler.
Eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon couperi) lyin in grass. The Eastern Indigo Snake is the longest snake in America.
The Eastern indigo snake will eat timber rattlesnakes, even ones that are bigger than they are.

©Patrick K. Campbell/Shutterstock.com

How do Kingsnakes Kill and Eat Timber Rattlesnakes?

Kingsnakes will approach a timber rattlesnake and strike right away, usually at the head. It will bite and latch on to the head and then wrap its body all the way around the other snake, constricting it. Without much hesitation it will start swallowing the snake whole, head first. Even snakes much larger than the kingsnake can be eaten.

How do Eastern Indigos Kill and Eat Timber Rattlesnakes?

Eastern Indigo snakes are not constrictors but they are some of the fastest striking snakes. They will strike a timber rattlesnake in the head and pin them to the ground, chewing as it goes, then swallowing the snake whole, head first.

Other Animals That Eat Timber Rattlesnakes

Other animals that eat Timber Rattlesnakes include Bobcats, coyotes, fox, skunks, hawks and owls.

How do Bobcats Eat Timber Rattlesnakes Without Being Bitten?

Bobcats are not immune to venom, but they can be stealthy hunters. If they sneak up on an unsuspecting rattlesnake they can pounce on it delivering a lethal blow to the snakes head with its large paw and claws. The snake is knocked out before it has a chance to strike and deliver its venom. Bobcats will also target smaller, inexperienced timber rattlesnakes that are easier prey than the adults.

How do Owls Hunt Timber Rattlesnakes?

Burrowing Owl and her prey, the green snake.
This burrowing owl captured and killed a green snake, but great horned owls do the same to timber rattlesnakes.

©Rafael Goes/Shutterstock.com

There are a few species of owls that prey on snakes. The barred Owl, barn Owl, Eastern screech owl and the largest, great horned owl. Owls have a few things going for them when it comes to an ‘Owl vs Snake’ battle. Since owls hunt at night they have amazing night vision and can detect even the smallest of movements from prey. With snakes, they have the upper hand because they can silently swoop down and crush the snakes head in their claw before grabbing it off the ground and flying away with it for food. Owls are not immune to venom, but they rarely get bitten with this swoop and kill tactic. Therefore, killing venomous snakes like timber rattlesnakes is a viable option for them.

How do Skunks Eat Timber Rattlesnakes?

top 10 non-traditional pets - skunk
Skunks are immune to rattlesnake venom. They are known to eat a variety of venomous and non-venomous snakes.

©Matt Knoth/Shutterstock.com

Did you know that skunks are immune to rattlesnake venom? They are immune if they get bitten and if they eat a rattlesnake the venom will not make them sick. Skunks are related to mongoose which are known to eat venomous snakes as well. A quirky “circle of life” fact is that great horned owls will eat skunks and don’t seem to be bothered by their smell.

Do Humans Eat Timber Rattlesnakes?

Yes, they can. People have been consuming what they hunt for years even if that includes a rattlesnake. The meat of the rattlesnake has been compared to being similar to frog legs. However, Timber Rattlesnakes are a threatened or endangered animal in many states so it is not lawful to “take, transport or have on in possession” in most states. Globally they are listed as Least Concern and decreasing, so individual states are doing what they can to help keep these snakes at a healthy population. Timber rattlesnakes play an important role in maintaining our current ecosystems, so keeping them around is so very important.

Do Timber Rattlesnakes Hibernate in Large Groups?

Yes! Talk about a rattlesnake buffet, if a predator came across a den of hibernating timber rattlesnakes they could find anywhere from 30-60 snakes all huddled together in one place. Some dens have included nearly 200 snakes! They also have an odd behavior of sharing their dens with other snake species like rat snakes, black racers and copperheads. They do not like to share their dens with kingsnakes for obvious reasons! Other snake-eating snakes are not invited either!

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The Featured Image

Close up of a Timber Rattlesnake eye
Timber Rattlesnakes have a black, green, and brown scaling pattern
© Scott Delony/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness about conservation by teaching others about the amazing animals we share the planet with. I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with a degree in Elementary Education and I am a former teacher. When I am not writing I love going to my kids' soccer games, watching movies, taking on DIY projects and running with our giant Labradoodle "Tango".

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