The Velvet Tail

The giant of all rattlesnakes!

I ran into a buddy of mine this morning on the lake.  He put his boat in across the creek from me and we met in the middle.  He was unusually pale this am (just recovered from a heart attack).  I asked ,”how are you doing”? he replied, “just lucky to be here!”  I had seen him since the heart attack and had already heard this from him.  He was talking about the giant snake he encountered at the ramp before dawn.  He got out of his truck to un- hook the boat and there in his way was a six foot long velvet tail.  Coiled and ready!  He had run over it with the boat trailer, but he was still alive and he was mad!  He thought he had run over a log , blown down from last nites storm.  He killed it with a boat paddle.  He was still out of breath thirty minutes later.  This snake weighed 33 lbs. (not the one in the pic).  It had 11 rattlers and a pretty red velvet patch six or so inches long above the tail.  This was not my first sighting of a velvet tail.

A few years back (25 or so), my buddy, Joey called and said let’s go hunting.  Now I was thinking he wanted to ride the road and poach a deer from the truck.  He said no we were gonna snake hunt.  It was an hour before dark and he said that is when they crawl out on the side of the road and can be ran over.  I was thinking if we ran over it ….it would destroy it.  He showed me the skin of one he had killed two days earlier.  This was huge and definitely not a snake from around here.  I was wrong!  Our first gravel road didn’t produce any snakes and we turned down another less used paved road and in no time we saw a “log” half way across the road.  Joey put both right tires smack dab on its head.  I looked back to see this huge snake wrestle itself in the middle of the road.  Armed with a garden hoe ( with a long handle) Joey finished it off.  Just over five feet long.  Ten rattlers and a nice velvet patch above the tail.  This was amazing !!!!  This was the biggest snake I had ever been “involved” with.  We finished out the trip and didn’t bag any more.  I watched as Joey skinned this thing and he needed help holding it on the pic nick table.  He salted it and stretched it out to dry.  I never knew we had these “big” snakes in our woods.  They are rare but they are there!  We killed some more that year and that was it for me.  I didn’t like the whole process.  It was dangerous.  Snakes have reflexes and can strike after they are dead.  These big velvet tails have some enormous fangs.  Not pin holes that I usually think would be the result from a bite.   My uncle worked on the rail road and said they dug up some nice ones weighing well over 50lbs and over 7′ long.

Recent Velvet Tail Killed In Arkansas Near Strawberry River

Crotalus horridus is the timber rattler.   There are many sub species in this family of pit vipers.  Some call it the “cane break” and most don’t get as big as these rare ones.  If you find an area that has one, well there is usually another. The neurotoxic component of the Type A venom is referred to as canebrake toxin, and is a phospholipase A2. It is analogous to the neurotoxins found in the venoms of several other rattlesnake species and, when present, contributes significantly to the overall toxicity. Other components found in the venom include a small basic peptide that works as a myotoxin, a fibrinogen-clotting enzyme that can produce defibrination syndrome, and a bradykinin-releasing enzyme.

After 22 months and over ten surgeries.

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11 thoughts on “The Velvet Tail

  1. There’s a place in Texas that each year, has a big party around their annual rattlesnake hunt. You’ve probably read about it.

    After years and years of killing thousands and thousands of snakes, the local farmers are starting to bitch about all the rats and mice damaging their crops and eating and spoiling the grains they had stored to feed livestock.

    I don’t know why people have such a visceral reaction to snakes, guess it’s because of the Bible.

    But I do know that no snake has ever caused the bubonic plague/Black Death that damn near killed off Europe hundreds of years ago, it was the fleas being carried around by rats and mice that transmitted the disease.

    And why so many vermin? The Vatican was on another of its witch hunts and declared that cats, but mostly black cats, were in league with the witches and should be killed.


    • “It should be noted that witch hunts were not unique to the Catholic Church, as all of the protestant nations in Europe also partook of this cruel abuse. Alas, no one was immune from guilt.” –

      Ipso facto- the bubonic plague spreading across Europe was not entirely the fault of the Holy Catholic Church or of the Vatican.

      Seems like people like to blame everything on God or His Church, until something goes wrong in their own life and THEN they want His help. Yes, the Catholic Church has had a few bad moments in it’s history, who hasn’t? You think you’re perfect? Think again. Stupidity kills.

      A parting note- It warms my heart to see how God is mentioned even on a site as innocuous as one dealing with the velvet tail rattlesnake. (: God’s peace be with you. 🙂


  2. Here’s a blog that goes into ‘giant’ rattlers and has some nifty pics.

    Living Alongside Wildlife: Return of the Giant Killed Rattlesnake (8/12/10 Updated)

    The version I was supplied suggested that this “timber rattlesnake” was killed outside Stuttgart, Arkansas. Perhaps you received the e-mail with the subject: “Stuttgart Arkansas Snake – killed in his front yard”. First off, we know that by holding the snake so close to the camera, it appears larger than it really is. Second, it’s not a rattlesnake! Notice how the picture conveniently cuts off the snake’s tail? This is actually a diamondback water snake, Nerodia rhombifer.
    They’re often mistaken for cottonmouths, but diamondback water snakes are harmless fish-eaters (but they may give you a bite if you try to catch one). These snakes can be found primarily in the Mississippi River valley but also range into bordering states and Mexico. You can learn more about distinguishing water snakes from venomous snakes here.


    • I can assure you the snake killed yesterday morning was a velvet tail rattler. weighing around 30 lbs. I held the scales. It was one of the velvet tails .. I used to hunt with my friend Joey. I have never seen one weighing 100 lbs. But 25 and 30 for sure. I know the difference. I was a park ranger at one time in my life. I have studied rattle snakes and their habitat. As the nites cool in September, they will crawl out onto gravel or paved roads to get the heat stored from the day. 75inches in the longest Joey and I ever got. I don’t kill snakes now unless they a threatening my life. Here in MS they have a red patch like velvet. different than a cane break rattler. Just in color. Most have a black patch of velvet.


    • The pic of the snake in Arkansas still looks like a velvet tail without the tail. The shape of a snakes head also gives it away. I can’t see the eyes and wouldn’t want to. lol I am on the river here in NE MS and have only seen one or two of the diamond back water snakes. Not very big around two feet. I have seen some nice cottonmouths. And have seen a “breeding” ball of cottonmouths. I worked outside all my life. I have been in some “situations” with snakes that I am lucky to get out of.

      Surveying a lot in Germantown, TN one morning I pulled a steel chain to measure a property line and when the chain got tight a two foot copper head slid down into my hands. How I got away I don’t know cause when I stopped running I was standing six inches away from another one!


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  4. I ok guys… I don’t care what kind it was/is! This entire story gave me the hebby jeebies! These don’t fall out of trees do they?


  5. Oh my God! That poor man that got bit and his arm! I watched the show on Animal Planet with Dr. Bush, the title escapes me-Venom was part of it. It showed the damage a rattler could do with its venom. Wow! It’s horrible but amazing to see an animal with this protective *gift*. Greg, I bring up that point about what was being done to cats when I talk to other cat lovers and we get on the topic of religion. I don’t hang with religious people but we use that as a point when we argue with those religious. It’s like the Bubonic Plague didn’t finish religion as it should’ve! Belgium now wants to end future generations of shorthair cats with mandatory spaying and neutering of all shorthair cats. Only long-haired Persians and Angoras are exempt. This is backward since shorthairs are healthier. Most longhaired cats are indoor only, so there go the mousers. Idiots don’t even have the money to do this yet and would be better off funding spay/neuter programs, cat rescue groups and TNR. They would rather have this Hitlerian plan of an all-long-haired-cat race. So no mousers = Plague is back!


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  7. The photo posted with this story is of a western diamond back, sometimes called a “coon tail” in Texas due to the black and white banding above the rattles. Velvet tails (canebrake rattlers) have a solid black tail above the rattles that is finely scaled and looks like it is black velvet. Other than that, this is a great blog.


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