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Tag Archive | "eastern massasauga rattlesnake"

Michigan rattlesnake listed as threatened 


Eastern massasauga rattlesnake. Photos by: Dan Kennedy

Eastern massasauga rattlesnake. Photos by: Dan Kennedy

Eastern massasauga rattlesnake. Photos by: Dan Kennedy

Eastern massasauga rattlesnake. Photos by: Dan Kennedy

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced last week that it has listed the eastern massasauga rattlesnake as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act, stating that nearly 40 percent of the snake’s historical populations are now extirpated (no longer exist) and an additional 15 percent is of uncertain status.

The final rule listing the eastern massasauga appears in the Sept. 30, 2016, Federal Register and has an effective date of Oct. 31, 2016.

Under the Endangered Species Act, threatened species are considered plants and animals that may become endangered in the foreseeable future. Across the eastern massasauga rattlesnake’s range, nearly 40 percent of the species’ population has declined. Habitat loss is considered the primary threat driving the snakes’ decline; however, as their numbers decline, other threats such as direct mortality or collection play a more significant role.

Eastern massasaugas currently are found in scattered locations in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Ontario, Canada. In Michigan, the eastern massasauga (the state’s only venomous snake) currently is state-listed as a species of special concern, but will be protected under Michigan’s Endangered Species Protection law once it is federally listed.

Most massasaugas are located within the southern portion of Michigan, with none occurring on the Upper Peninsula’s mainland.

“Conservation of this rare snake is critical because it plays an important role as a predator of small mammals,” said Dan Kennedy, Michigan Department of Natural Resources endangered species specialist. “The DNR is currently working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and many other partners to develop a reasonable approach to conserve this rare snake in Michigan.”

These snakes live in wet prairies, marshes and low-lying areas along rivers and lakes, and may also live in uplands during part of the year. They often hibernate in crayfish burrows, but they also may be found under logs and tree roots or in small mammal burrows.

Those who live in areas with massasaugas can take steps to keep the snakes away from their yard, such as keeping their grass cut short and removing structures like leaf and brush piles, dead logs and stacks of firewood that snakes or their prey (primarily small rodents) might use.

Kennedy emphasized that “human safety comes first, and the federal Endangered Species Act allows anyone to take action to protect yourself or others if you feel threatened.”

The massasauga is a small snake with a thick body, heart-shaped head and vertical pupils. The average length of an adult is about 2 feet. The snake’s tail has several dark brown rings and is tipped by gray-yellow rattles. They eat small rodents such as mice and voles, and will sometimes eat frogs and other snakes. They are docile, secretive snakes that will try to escape rather than defend themselves or fight. For more information on this snake and many others, see the “60-Second Snakes” video series on the DNR’s YouTube channel atwww.youtube.com/michigandnr.

For more information about the eastern massasauga and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s final rule to list the snake under the Endangered Species Act, visitwww.fws.gov/midwest/endangered/reptiles/eama.

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Tips for residents encountering snakes


 

The only venomous snake species found in Michigan, the rare eastern massasauga rattlesnake is shy and avoids humans whenever possible.

The only venomous snake species found in Michigan, the rare eastern massasauga rattlesnake is shy and avoids humans whenever possible.


From the Michigan DNR

This time of year, as snakes are out and about in the great outdoors, the Department of Natural Resources gets many questions about Michigan’s snakes. Michigan is home to 18 different species of snakes, 17 of which are harmless to humans.

There are two that are very similar and often cause a stir when people encounter them. Eastern hognose snakes, when threatened, puff up with air, flatten their necks and bodies, and hiss loudly. (This has led to local names like “puff adder” or “hissing viper.”) If this act is unsuccessful in deterring predators, the snakes will writhe about, excrete a foul-smelling musk and then turn over with mouth agape and lie still, as though dead. Despite this intimidating behavior, hog-nosed snakes are harmless to humans.

The Eastern massasauga rattlesnake the only venomous snake species found in Michigan, is quite rare and protected as a species of special concern due to declining populations from habitat loss. As the name implies, the massasauga rattlesnake does have a segmented rattle on its tail. It should not be confused with other harmless species of snakes in Michigan that do not have segmented rattles but also will buzz their tails if approached or handled.

Eastern massasauga rattlesnakes are shy creatures that avoid humans whenever possible. Also known as “swamp rattlers,” they spend the vast majority of their time in year-round wetlands hunting their primary prey, mice. When encountered, if the snake doesn’t feel threatened, it will let people pass without revealing its location. If humans do get too close, a rattlesnake will generally warn of its presence by rattling its tail while people are still several feet away. If given room, the snake will slither away into nearby brush. Rattlesnake bites, while extremely rare in Michigan (fewer than one per year), can and do occur. Anyone who is bitten should seek medical attention immediately. To learn more about the massasauga and for more snake safety tips, visit http://mnfi.anr.msu.edu/emr/index.cfm.

Those who encounter a snake of any kind should leave it alone and should not try to handle or harass the snake—this is primarily how snake bites happen. A snake can only strike roughly one-third of its body length, so it is physically impossible for people to get bitten if they do not get within 24 inches of the snake’s head. Michigan snakes do not attack, chase or lunge at people or seek out human contact. Simply put, if left alone, Michigan snakes will leave people alone.

To learn more about Michigan’s snakes, visit www.michigan.gov/wildlife, click on the “Wildlife Species” button and select “Amphibians and Reptiles.”

Also, be sure to check out the DNR’s 60-Second Snakes video series for identification tips and information about Michigan’s snake species.

The DNR asks Michigan residents to consider reporting any reptile or amphibian sightings to the Michigan Herp Atlas research project to help monitor amphibian and reptile populations in Michigan and protect these valuable resources for future generations. Visit www.miherpatlas.org for more information.

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