With perhaps less than 200 Timber Rattle Snakes left in the entire state of Massachusetts (5 remaining populations), and being completely extinct from Maine and Rhode Island, the Mass Department of Fisheries and Wildlife is working to conserve these beautiful animals. They feel that is it their responsibility to restore the population. Their proposal is to give several snakes a head start at life, and when they are ready for release they have chosen a location where they can be safe from people. People are much more of a threat to these snakes as there are deliberate killings due to the unnecessary fear of them caused by a lack of understanding of them, and being too close to people also causes an increase and road killings.
What location have they chosen?
They have chosen a location within the Quabbin Reservior called Mount Zion, which is the largest island on the Quabbin at 1300 acres and spanning over 3 1/2 miles long. They have chosen this location do to the size of the island whereas it will provide everything they need and allow the snakes to burrow very deep during the winter months. These snakes require a very deeply set den that can protect them from the bitter cold of winter.
Can they leave the island?
Of course they can, they are fine swimmers, however they cannot swim very long distances and they will not survive the winter because they would have to travel much too far to find another location that is as well suited for their winter time hibernation as the island is. This island is already being used as a home for other rattle snake species, with proven results showing that they prefer this island as a permanent home because it provides everything they need, from water to food, sunshine and deeply set dens. Another fine point to consider is that these snakes will avoid contact with people at all costs, most times an encounter with a rattle snake, while very rare only occurs when a person is hiking or exploring in the woods. Should they come upon one, they need only walk the other way, the snake will follow suit and avoid contact at all costs.
How many do they plan to release there?
Mr. Tom French, the assistant Director of MassWildlife has stated that a healthy population of Timber Rattle Snakes consists of approximately 150 snakes, however they are not going to release that many all at once, they are planning to release only 1 to 10 in any given year, as they first have to give them a head start at life and keep them in captivity and feeding for a couple years first to ensure that they are healthy and strong enough to thrive. Furthermore for the first decade of the project the snakes will each have a transmitter to track their movements.
New England Shows is passionate about wildlife and the conservation of endangered species and we feel strongly that this project will be a safe and successful one.