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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Monday, February 13, 2012

Nearly extirpated from Vermont, Timber Rattlenakes are being given a 2nd chance at long term survival thanks to the efforts of Biologists and The Orianne Society(snake and reptile advocates) who are in the middle of a two year study that tracks the snakes from their winter dens and follows their movements during the Spring and Summer months........The two remainiing populations of the snake are in the Western part of Vermont and are known to travel up to two miles from their natal dens during the warm weather months of the year.....Feared and hated by most, yet the Timber Rattler adorns the Revolutionary War era flag that bore the saying: "DON'T TREAD ON ME".....The snakes can live up to 30 years but females can take up to 10 years to become fertile,,,and then only reproducing two or three times over their lifetime..........At the northern end of their historical range, it is critical that enough connective habitat exist for the snakes continuance,,,,,, and it is uber-important for us humans to be educated about the need for co-existance

Advocates work to protect rattlesnakes in Vt.

Fedor-Cunningham, 53, of Benson, remembers when Vermonters could take proof of a dead rattlesnake to a town clerk's office and be given a check for helping clear the landscape of the snakes.
Though they're no longer common and rarely bother humans, the snakes still evoke fear. So Fedor-Cunningham is working with a group of state biologists and a private organization to ensure Vermont's rattlesnake population in western Rutland County at the southern end of Lake Champlain are protected from people and people are protected from the rattlesnakes.

That group is in the middle of a two-year study to track the snakes from their winter dens, most of which are on protected land, to learn about where they go in the summer. Last spring some of the snakes, estimated at several hundred in two separate populations, were outfitted with radio transmitters. By fall researchers were surprised to find just how far they went: Some traveled almost two miles from their dens, crossing roads and passing through rural backyards.

Almost since Europeans settled North America have rattlesnakes evoked strong emotions. They are one of this country's earliest symbols of freedom. It's a timber rattlesnake that is coiled on the Revolutionary War-era flag that bore the saying, "Don't tread on me."

For centuries, the poisonous snakes were feared and every effort was made to destroy them. It wasn't until 1971 that Vermont stopped paying bounties for rattlesnake rattles. In 1987, rattlesnakes were added to the state's endangered species list.

Rattlesnakes are extinct in Maine and Rhode Island. New Hampshire has one known area where rattlesnakes settle and Massachusetts and Connecticut have about 10.

"In New England, we've killed off most of our dangerous things. It's a relatively benign place to live," said Christopher Jenkins, the executive director of the Orianne Society, a Clayton, Ga.,-based nonprofit group dedicated to protecting snakes and other reptiles across the country. It's the group working on the Vermont project.

Now biologists are torn between competing desires to educate the public about the snakes and a need to keep quiet about their movements to protect them from unscrupulous collectors or others who could kill them out of an irrational fear.These rattlesnake lives on the landscape with people and people encounter them. The snakes come onto peoples' property," Jenkins said.

Fish and Wildlife Biologist Doug Blodgett has studied the snakes for years. They are venomous, so there is a legitimate need for caution; a man was bitten on the hand in Fair Haven in 2010 and hospitalized, but it was the state's only recorded rattlesnake bite in the past half-century.
But the cultural fear is so ingrained it crosses into the irrational, Blodgett said.

"The Bible speaks to these venomous serpents and the devil incarnate," he said. "That's quite a statement. When an animal is the embodiment of Satan, that's a pretty low blow."

Being in Vermont, at the extreme northern edge of their range, makes the snakes here more vulnerable than in other areas. Rattlesnakes, which can live up to 30 years, are unlikely to spend more than six months out of hibernation each year and might only feed once a season. It can take females up to 10 years to reach sexual maturity. Over their lifetimes, they might not reproduce more than two or three times.

So the groups pass out refrigerator magnets to people within the snakes' range that have the phone numbers to call if they find a rattlesnake. The numbers get four to eight calls a year, Jenkins said.
It's through those efforts and other outreach that people know to call Fedor-Cunningham or other volunteers.

Because rattlesnakes are listed as endangered by the state it is illegal to harm them or kill them, but Fedor-Cunningham and Blodgett know not everyone calls.

"You hear stories about people taking care of it themselves," Blodgett said. "When you mess with them and you get their attention, boy, now you've got yourself a situation, especially if you don't know what you are doing and you physically force them to defend themselves. Well, what else are they going to do? They are not good things to test your reflexes on."

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