Georgia Wildlife Expert Has Horrifying Encounter With Timber Rattlesnake in Tree Stand

by Amy Myers

Earlier this month, a Georgia wildlife biologist found himself in a very dangerous situation when he spotted a timber rattlesnake lurking a little too close to one of his tree stands.

Brian Murphy, who is also VP for corporate relations at Huntstand, has seen a wide range of wildlife while in one of his Morgan County stands. And most of the time, he doesn’t mind the occasional visitor, so long as they don’t distract from the end goal.

But on August 13, Murphy shared a much more shocking encounter that could have ended in a trip to the hospital. Instead of a stray insect or scuttling squirrel, Murphy was standing in striking distance of a timber rattlesnake.

“This is a first—and hopefully a last—for me,” Murphy wrote in a Facebook post. “Over the past 30-plus years, I’ve climbed in and out of countless treestands and have become accustomed to occasional unwanted guests including wasps, spiders, raccoons, owls, and few other critters, but never a three-foot timber rattler.”

Hunter Initially Mistook Timber Rattlesnake for Rat Snake

Unfortunately for unsuspecting hunters, timber rattlesnakes love Georgia’s pine-filled woods. Like all pit vipers, these rattlers have potent enough venom to kill a human. So, when Murphy saw what he was up against, he knew he needed to make a speedy exit.

“I had already been fiddling with the stand for a good three to four minutes, with my hands in striking range (of the snake) several times,” wrote Murphy. “My first thought was rat snake, but then I noticed the unmistakable shape of a pit viper head and realized it was a ‘nope rope’!”

Rat snakes can have similar coloring along the top half of their bodies, but the most recognizable differences have to do with the two species’ heads and tails. While rat snakes have flat heads and quiet tails, timber rattlesnakes have triangular-shaped heads and, well, noisy tails. And above all, the most important distinction is that the rat snake is not venomous.

In Murphy’s situation, it doesn’t seem that the rattler gave any indication of its presence. Luckily, though, the biologist and seasoned hunter recognized how deadly his situation was before it was too late.

“Boy, would this have been trouble if it had struck my face while in the tree or if a hunter climbed in before daylight and opened the seat to sit down,” he continued in the post. “Thought I’d just about seen it all in tree stands, but never even considered the remote possibility of finding a rattler! Be careful out there.”

It’s not clear whether Murphy came back to the stand or if he took any preventive measures to ensure there weren’t any nests nearby. Likely, in the future, he’ll be on the lookout for any other scaly visitors nearby.