Velvet-tails and Coon-tails

Timber Ratlesnake or "Velvet-tail" (left) and Western Diamondback or "Coon-tail" (right).

Adults of the Timber Rattlesnake or "Velvet-tail" (left) and the Western Diamondback or "Coon-tail" (right).

Two common rattlesnakes, the Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) and the Western Diamondback (Crotalus atrox), are known to many locals as Velvet-tails and Coon-tails, respectively. The reasons—Timber Rattlesnakes have black tails that have a velvety appearance, particularly just after they shed their skin, and Western Diamondbacks have black and white banded tails similar to those of raccoons. Both of these snakes can be considered very dangerous because they have toxic venom, and they can reach large sizes and thus produce a lot of venom.

Most commonly seen in Spring and Fall, both species aggregate in den-sites to overwinter, and both species bask in the open (often on dirt or paved roads) to gain heat on cooler days. These snakes are native to Oklahoma, with Velvet-tails occurring in the eastern half of the state and Coon-tails occurring across most of the state. Extreme care should be taken when relocating or handling these snakes, and our best advice is to leave them alone. The good news is that if one shows up in your yard, it is likely just passing through and will be gone in a few days.

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