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Tag Archive | "rattlesnake"

It’s best to leave snakes be


 

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

Michigan is home to 18 different species of snakes, 17 of which are harmless to humans

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources gets many questions this time of year about Michigan’s snakes. Eighteen different species of snake call Michigan home, but only one of them poses any real harm to humans.

“Whether you think snakes are terrifying or totally cool, it is best just to leave them be,” said Hannah Schauer, wildlife communications coordinator for the DNR.

The snake the DNR gets the most questions about is the eastern massasauga rattlesnake, the only venomous species found in Michigan. This snake rarely is seen and is listed as a threatened species by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service due to declining populations from habitat loss. As its name implies, the massasauga rattlesnake does have a segmented rattle on its tail. It should not be confused with the other, harmless species of snake in Michigan that do not have segmented rattles but will buzz their tails if approached or handled.

“The massasauga rattlesnake tends to be a very shy snake that will avoid humans whenever possible,” said Schauer. “They spend the vast majority of their time in wetlands hunting for mice and aren’t often encountered.”

Schauer said that when a massasauga is encountered, if the snake doesn’t feel threatened it will let people pass without revealing its location.

“If you do get too close without realizing it, a rattlesnake will generally warn you of its presence by rattling its tail while you are still several feet away,” Schauer said. “If given room, the snake will slither away and likely will not be seen again.”

Rattlesnake bites, while extremely rare in Michigan, can and do occur. Anyone who is bitten should seek professional medical attention.

Another snake that can cause quite a stir is the eastern hog-nosed snake, one of the many harmless species found in Michigan. When threatened, hognose snakes 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, they 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 do not pose a threat to humans.

Michigan snakes do not attack, chase or lunge at people or seek out human contact. If you have spotted a snake, stay at least 3 feet away from the head to avoid getting bit. Handling or harassing snakes is the most common cause for humans getting bit. Simply put, if left alone, Michigan snakes will leave people alone.

To find out what other kinds of snakes Michigan has and how to tell the difference between them, check out the “60-Second Snakes” video series on the DNR’s YouTube channel.

Learn more about Michigan’s snakes by visiting mi.gov/wildlife and clicking on the “Wildlife Species” button, then selecting “Amphibians and Reptiles.”

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

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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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