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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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Friday, June 21, 2013

Once common in the Champlain Valley(northwestern Vermont), the Timber Rattlesnake hangs by a thread to survival in two isolated pockets in Rutland County(central Vermont)..............Researchers are now also facing the recently documented "fungal disease" that is killing rattlers across their range.................Like whitenose syndrome that has decimated bat populations east of the Mississippi, the snake disease most likely is caused by the accumulated environmental assault that we humans have relentless waged on the natural world,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,Global warming, chemicals of all sorts-------As Bill Maher often states on his late night HBO program,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,let us exhibit some humility and fess up to the havoc we are causing rather than hiding our heads in the sand and pretending that some "mysterious" force is responsible for these problems

VF&W works to recover Vermont's timber rattlesnakes

RUTLAND COUNTY- The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department has been working with researchers at The Nature Conservancy and the Orianne Society to conserve a piece of Vermont's unique natural heritage, the timber rattlesnake. They have captured rattlesnakes from the wild and implanted radio transmitters under their skin as part of a two-year study of timber rattlesnake habitat and movements in western Rutland County.

The researchers have also been working to determine the extent and severity of a condition referred to as 'snake fungal disease' that has recently begun afflicting Vermont's timber rattlesnakes. Snake fungal disease causes blisters or brown, crusty lesions on the face and neck of infected individuals.

Biologist Doug Blodgett leads the timber rattlesnake project for VF&W. "We first documented the lesions on timber rattlesnakes in 2012," said Blodgett. "Since then, the condition has been observed in several species of snakes throughout Vermont. It's difficult to assess the effects of this disease on individuals, but it does appear to be associated with population declines in neighboring states."

Timber rattlesnakes are one of 11 species of native snakes in Vermont. They once ranged throughout the Champlain Valley, but are now found only in two isolated populations in western Rutland County.

The fate of timber rattlesnakes in Vermont is uncertain. The loss of critical habitat, collection for the black market pet trade, and indiscriminate killing have depressed populations to state-endangered status, and snake fungal disease may exacerbate these problems.

 Together with other snake species, timber rattlesnakes help control rodent populations, which would cause crop damage and spread diseases such as Lyme without limits from predators.

"There's always been a strong cultural bias against rattlesnakes due to sensationalized Hollywood depictions of these animals as highly aggressive, stalking menaces of the forest," said Blodgett.  "Nothing could be further from the truth.  In my dozen years of experience working with rattlesnakes in Vermont, I've been most impressed with how docile, tolerant and secretive these animals are. They do just about anything to avoid confrontation with people."

Public perception of rattlesnakes is changing as people gain a better understanding of this species. Fear and hatred are giving way to interest and curiosity, as people begin to appreciate the important role that rattlesnakes play in the ecosystem.

While most rattlesnakes in Vermont remain in remote areas, they are occasionally found near people. VF&W urges Vermonters who find a rattlesnake in their yard to avoid handling the snake and to contact the Rattlesnake Removal Program at 802-241-3700 to have the snake safely relocated by a trained expert.

"These animals are the original native Vermonters. They've been here for thousands of years and are an integral part of our ecosystem and our wildlife heritage," said Blodgett. "I see them as a symbol of something still untamed and wild in a fairly tame landscape. They deserve our protection and stewardship."

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