Rattlesnakes in Pennsylvania State Forests


Rattlesnakes in Pennsylvania State Forests Brochure

Print this informative brochure about rattlesnakes on state forest lands. Find the Bureau's latest Conservation Strategy here.


The largest populations of timber rattlesnakes occur in remote, heavily forested regions of Pennsylvania which means they often call state forests home. These amazing creatures are frequently misunderstood and feared. The truth is that they just want to be left in peace, are a beneficial part of the ecosystem and without them some of the wild character of our forests would be lost. The latest timber rattlesnake conservation strategy for state forest lands can be found here.

Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Bureau of Forestry's 2.2 million acres of State Forest lands provide the largest blocks of timber rattlesnake range remaining in the Northeastern states. These forests are managed according to the principles of ecosystem management, with the realization that all the different species must be present to sustain a healthy, functioning forest.

The presence of timber rattlesnakes is one of the components that gives a wild flavor to State Forest land. The largest populations of timber rattlesnakes occur in the remote, heavily forested regions of Pennsylvania, and the state Wildlife Action Plan recognizes the state's responsibility in maintaining viable populations of native species.

Worldwide, the importance of venomous snakes is being recognized not only for their role as both predator and prey but for their medical value. Recent promising breakthroughs in treatments for hypertension, heart attack, and cancer are attributed to snake venom research.sf-image-Rattlesnake9

Pennsylvania experienced a major decline in its timber rattlesnake population during recent decades attributed mainly to unrestricted commercial and sport hunting, den raiding, and land development. This decline prompted the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission (charged with aquatic invertebrate, fish, reptile, and amphibian management) to implement protective regulations and declare the timber rattlesnake a Candidate species for listing (Timber rattlesnakes are listed as threatened or endangered in neighboring states). DCNR urges all State Forest users including recreational visitors, camp lessees, logging, mineral, and rights-of-way contractors, fuel wood cutters, and passers-through to exhibit a tolerance for the timber rattlesnake and abide by all applicable regulations:

  • Persons who hunt, capture, kill, or possess timber rattlesnakes must have an Individual Timber Rattlesnake Hunter and Rattlesnake Possession Permit.
  • One snake can be taken annually with a valid permit, but the snake must be at least 42 inches in length, measured lenghtwise along the dorsal surface from the snout to tail (excluding the rattle). It also must have 21 or more subcaudal scales. This length requirement protects female snakes as male timber rattlesnakes are larger.
  • It is unlawful to hunt, take or kill timber rattlesnakes (even with a valid timber rattlesnake collection permit) west of Route 15 and south of interstate 81 to the Maryland line. Therefore, there is no open season for timber rattlesnake collection in the Michaux State Forest.
  • Timber rattlesnakes may not be collected (even with a valid timber rattlesnake collection permit) in the following 28 Natural Areas on State Forest land:
    State Forest
    Natural Area
    Bald Eagle
    Mt. Logan
    Rosencrans Bog
    Tall Timbers
    The Hook
    Sweet Root
    Pennel Run
    Lower Jerry Run
    Wykoff Run
    Roaring Run
    Charles F. Lewis
    KettleCreek Gorge
    Carbaugh Run
    Marion Brooks
    Bear Meadows
    Big Flat Laurel
    Detweiler Run
    Little Juniata
    Cranberry Swamp
    East Branch Swamp
    Tamarack Swamp
    Forrest H. Dutlinger
    Algerine Swamp
    Berk Cabin
    Miller Run
    Black Ash Swamp
    Reynolds Spring
    Frank E. Masland
  • Damage to denning or overwintering and basking areas is prohibited.
  • Selling timber rattlesnakes or parts thereof is prohibited.
  • Timber rattlesnakes are protected under specific regulations by the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission. For more information, consult the most recent "Pennsylvania Summary of Fishing Regulations and Laws" (supplied with fishing licenses) or direct questions to: Nongame and Endangered Species Unit, Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission, 450 Robinson Lane, Bellefonte, PA 16823 www.fish.state.pa.us