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Poisonous Snakes in Massachusetts & New Hampshire

By Chris Williams on July 20, 2015.
Poisonous Snakes in Massachusetts & New Hampshire - Timber Rattler

A Timber Rattlesnake

Every once in awhile we get a panicky phone call from a citizen who is worried that the snake he saw in his yard could be poisonous. I always reassure him that the chances of that snake being poisonous are extremely remote. We’re very lucky in New England in that we have fewer poisonous snakes than most other parts of the U.S. Apparently, Maine is the only state with no venomous snakes. The one or two poisonous snakes in our region are almost never seen and are endangered and protected.

In New Hampshire, we have 11 species of native snakes and the timber rattlesnake is the only poisonous one. The status of the timber rattler is “critically imperiled,” it is protected by the state and is very rare. See photos of New Hampshire’s snakes at the state’s Fish & Game Department website. Fish and Game asks that you leave all snakes alone and that you let them know if you see the endangered timber rattler.

In Massachusetts, there are 14 species of native snakes, including two venomous snakes: the timber rattlesnake and the northern copperhead. These two, and at least two other Massachusetts snakes are endangered and it is illegal to kill, harass, or possess them. See photos of Massachusetts’ snakes at the state’s Audubon Society website.

The Protected Timber Rattlesnake

Timber rattlesnakes are docile and unlikely to strike unless provoked or stepped on. In New Hampshire, most rattlers are black with little or no pattern.

You won’t ever find a timber rattlesnake in your yard unless you live on a rocky ledge of a south-facing hillside in a wooded area exposed to sunlight. That’s the habitat of the timber rattler. In New Hampshire there is only one remaining population in the state. In Massachusetts, the timber rattler exists in only about a dozen widely scattered sites in the mountainous regions of the state.

How Rare Are The Poisonous Snakes?

To further illustrate how uncommon these poisonous snakes are:

  • In New Hampshire, there are supposedly more places with “rattlesnake” in the name than there are actual rattlesnakes in the state.
  • In Massachusetts, a guy was bitten by a copperhead while walking in the woods on his property. His doctor told him that he should buy a lottery ticket because his odds of winning Megabucks were better than the odds of getting bitten by a copperhead in Massachusetts.

Photo credit: brian.gratwicke / Foter / CC BY

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