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What is a Canebrake?

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  • Written By: Vasanth S.
  • Edited By: Kathryn Hulick
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  • Last Modified Date: 15 May 2017
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The canebrake, also known as the timber rattlesnake, is a type of rattlesnake that is native to the southeastern portion of the United States. The scientific name for the canebrake is Crotalus horridus. It is 30-60 inches (76-152 cm) long and is gray to pinkish in color, with v-shaped brown stripes. The canebrake is active during the day and night and usually eats rodents. Although not endangered, the species is in decline in many areas.

A canebrake is classified within the Viperidae animal family and is considered to be a pit viper. Pit vipers are snakes that have facial pits between the eye and nostril, on both sides of the head. These are used to locate warm-blooded animals.

The timber rattlesnake is found in a variety of environments including in cane thickets and around swamps. It is also found in hardwood or pine forests, often coiled in position to be ready to strike. Other terrain which are suitable for the canebrake include river floodplains, mountainous regions, and rural farms.

Like other rattlesnakes, canebrakes features a rattle at the tip of the tail. There are several segments, and it is usually black. The rattle on newly hatched timber rattlesnakes consists of one segment. It is made of keratin, which is a structural protein. Usually, the rattle is used to warn other animals of the snake's presence.

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When hunting prey, the timber rattlesnake utilizes its fangs and venom. There are several types of venom produced by the timber rattlesnake. Some venom types are dangerous to humans.

The timber rattlesnake hibernates during the winter. It usually curls up underneath ground cover or within tree stumps until late spring. By late summer, timber rattlesnakes mate.

Reproduction is ovoviviparous, which means that the young develop in eggs that are stored within the female's body. The incubation period is typically two months. Afterward, the eggs hatch within the female's body, and the female gives birth to live young. A clutch typically contains between four and 17 young. The female waits about three years between matings.

As a result of road construction, many of the migratory paths taken by the canebrake are now dangerous. The declining population is also due to the pet trade and pest control. Also, hunters target canebrakes for their skin and meat. In addition to the threat from humans, natural predators like the owl, fox, and coyote hunt this snake for food.

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