Timber Rattlesnakes: In Danger or Dangerous in Vermont?

Kiley Briggs

Last week in Vermont, in advance of an upcoming Timber Rattlesnake research project, Chris Jenkins and I, along with partners from The Nature Conservancy, Vermont Fish and Wildlife, and the Vermont Herp Atlas, gave a presentation to an audience of approximately 60 local citizens.  Our talk was about the history and biology of Timber Rattlesnakes in the state, along with a brief summary of our research plans for the next couple years.

In addition to identifying previously unknown dens and birthing areas, the purpose of the project will be to identify areas key to the survival of the locally endangered Timber Rattlesnakes, such as important travel corridors and foraging habitats where targeted conservation efforts can be employed.  To do this, we will primarily be using radio telemetry to track a number of rattlesnakes through their entire annual migration away from and back to the dens.

Because the snakes’ habitat is interspersed with private land, public support and outreach will be a very large part of our research.  Going into the presentation we were unsure of our reception from community members, but were pleasantly surprised to find that the audience was intrigued by the snakes and asked questions mostly about rattlesnake biology. 

After the talk, I had some constructive conversations with a few landowners who had reservations about allowing access to their property, and I am hopeful that they left the meeting with a good feeling about me, The Orianne Society, and what we hope to accomplish.  Those positive one-on-one conversations with landowners and other members of the community will prove most useful in ensuring that our research goes smoothly and without complications.  If the species disappears, it is not coming back, and we strongly believe that the research we are doing will help contribute to the long-term survival of the Timber Rattlesnake in Vermont, a species that is not only biologically significant but which also has strong cultural importance to the region.

We left the meeting optimistic that we will be able to count on strong community support and encouragement for the duration of the project, and we are looking forward to working with the community and our partners over the next two years and beyond.

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