Venomous Snakes in the Bergen County-North Jersey Area
 
The Timber Rattlesnake
 

As Bergen County residents, particularly those living near wooded or marshy areas, take to the trails for nature hikes or spend time doing yard work during the warmer months of April-October, there's always the chance that they might encounter one of the 22 species of snakes found in New Jersey. The good news is that Bergen County area residents are much more likely to encounter one of the region's non-venomous species, such as the common eastern garter snake or the black racer, than they are to ever run into a poisonous snake.

Use Common Sense 

When enjoying the great outdoors, it is important to use common sense and to be aware of your surroundings. This is particularly important in the Ramapo Valley County Reservation area, other heavily wooded park areas in the Highlands Region, along the Palisades and in neighboring communities. If you'll be spending time outdoors in these areas, you should also familiarize yourself with the appearance, habitats and habits of the area's venomous snakes. Always watch where you're stepping when walking on nature trails and keep dogs leashed. Should you encounter a snake of any kind, keep your distance and leave it alone! Should you find a snake on your property and you have reason to believe it may be venomous, contact your local police department. 

Under New Jersey's Endangered and Nongame Species Conservation Act, it is illegal to kill, harm, harass or collect any native, non-game wildlife including snakes.

Bergen County's Two Venomous Snakes

We have two venomous snakes that can be found in Bergen County. Both the northern copperhead and the timber rattlesnake are reclusive and shy, but each will defend itself if threatened. Fortunately, you have a greater chance of being struck by lightning than of ever being bitten by one of these venomous snakes.

The Northern Copperhead

The northern copperhead is a venomous snake with a broad triangular head, vertically elliptical pupils and a heat sensitive pit between each eye and nostril. The body is pinkish to grayish brown with brown or reddish-brown crossbands that are narrow on the back and widest on the sides. Small dark spots commonly occur between crossbands on the back. The unpatterned head is dull orange, copper or rusty-red. Body scales are keeled and the belly is pink or light brown with dark blotches along the sides. When young, a copperhead has a yellow-tipped tail. View images of northern copperheads.

Copperheads prefer rocky, forested hillsides and wetlands for habitat. Wet areas are particularly sought out in the hot summer months. Sightings have been reported in recent years along the Palisades in the Tenafly area, as well as in the Ramapo Valley County Reservation area near the Mahwah/Oakland border.

When approached, copperheads will either move away quietly or lay motionless, relying on camouflage to protect them. Occasionally, they will vibrate their tails. Bites usually occur when people unknowingly step on or touch unseen snakes. Despite the venomous nature of copperhead bites, they are rarely fatal. In New Jersey, copperheads are so rare and reclusive that people seldom encounter them.

The copperhead is one of northern New Jersey’s least common sna