Sunday, September 16, 2007

Timber Rattlers

Few animals are as symbolic of wilderness in Ohio as the Timber Rattlesnake, Crotalus horridus. Once, this snake ranged widely across the state, but now it is restricted to a few areas of southeastern Ohio where extensive, remote forests still occur.

I got the opportunity to go along this weekend with herpetologist Doug Wynn, and help release some young snakes and their mother. Doug collects data on Timber Rattlesnakes, and tracks a number of individuals to keep tabs on populations.
Mamma snake. She was a big bruiser. I've now gotten to see about 15 of these magnificent animals in the wild, and not a single one of them has ever rattled. They are incredibly docile and non-reactionary. Nonetheless, only a fool would attempt to handle one without training or get too close. And most people certainly wouldn't want to; they are fairly intimidating.

The business end, forked tongue and all. You can see the facial pits, and the cat-like pupil.

The rattle. They make a dry rapid buzzy sound; something to be alert to if you are in their woods. An assessment of a snake's age can be ascertained by the rattles, but not with complete accuracy. This one had apparently lost a few segments.

Here's the little guys; only a few weeks old. There are five of them in this shot; they soon dispersed and started heading off in the direction of mom. Their den was not far off. Timber Rattlesnake young are born live, and these were already about a foot in length.

I know not everyone likes animals like this, and many absolutely despise snakes. Nonetheless, the Timber Rattlesnake is a fading part of Ohio's wilderness, and we should be glad that there are places left that still support them. Not only that, but we should protect Timber Rattlesnakes and their habitat with diligence. Even though you may not like these snakes, the bounty of other biodiversity that comes with forests that supports them is staggering.

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