Statistically, since beginning to spend any significant amount of time in the PA woods, I’ve averaged about one sighting per year. My high is 3 in one year, though I’ve had years where I don’t see any. All Timbers, I’ve never seen a Copperhead in PA, though I’m generally in places where Timbers are more abundant.
So far this year, I have one sighting…late May in Mifflin County crossing a gravel road on my walk back to my vehicle after fishing. Most of my time in the woods is spent fishing, so most of my sightings are in Summer along stream banks or gravel bars. I’m not often hiking higher up on ridgelines where dens more frequently are. I’ve seen one yellow phase in PA, the rest have all been black phase. Coincidentally, the only one that did any significant amount of rattling was the one yellow phase. Most of them never rattled, or even moved.
Given the choice of being 3 feet from a Timber Rattlesnake, or 3 feet from a Black Bear, I’d choose the Rattlesnake. As long as you knew it was there, and didn’t mess with it or try to handle it, there’s a 0% chance you’d get bit. Just walk around it. It is true that Timbers are more mild mannered than other Rattlesnake species. This is why you generally see Timbers used in snake handling shows and the like. Though a Black Bear attack is also very unlikely even at just 3 feet away, it’s probably more than a 0% chance. I’d take both before a tick encounter though.
The issue with Rattlers (or Copperheads) IMO is simply stepping on one you don’t see. For that I wear knee high gaiters over my waders in the Summer. There’s often times where you can’t see where you’re putting your feet in the undergrowth,and gaiters are cheap extra insurance. They’re good for protecting your waders against sticks and thorns too. I’ve probably stepped within 3 feet of Rattlers half a dozen times before I saw them. None of them rattled, or even moved. I’m convinced to get bit you’d actually have to step on it, or provoke it somehow by messing with it or attempting to handle it.
Last edited by Swattie87; 09-25-2018 at 09:02 AM.