Rattlesnake Rumors

By: Stacy Eckes
By: Stacy Eckes

Rumors about rattlesnakes slithering through the woods in North Central Wisconsin are just that, rumors.

Recently, the local grapevine has been spreading word that poisonous rattlesnakes were being released into the woods in both Rib Mountain and Lincoln County.

We went to the Department of Natural Resources and found out the rumor is false.

They are not bringing any snakes to the area. However, a wildlife biologist says there are less harmful snakes native to our region that look like rattlesnakes.

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Timber Rattlesnake

  • The Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) is a top predator on the forest ecosystems of eastern North America.

  • They are found nowhere else in the world.

  • Timber Rattlesnakes are disappearing from most of their range, and are currently the subject of much debate in Wisconsin and nationally over how best to protect declining populations, and the extent of the decline.

Rattlesnake Breeding

  • Females take nine to 11 years to mature in Wisconsin.

  • Females breed only every three to four years, and may only breed only three to five times in their lifetimes, limiting the number of offspring produced.

  • Juvenile rattlesnakes experience high mortality rates, limiting recruitment of adults into the population. Predators include hawks, owls, fox, coyote, and raccoons.

  • Adults have few natural enemies, and adult mortality rates must remain extremely low to maintain populations over generations.

Where are Timber Rattlesnakes found?

  • Timber Rattlesnakes occurred in 30 states at the time of settlement. The range extended from Florida and Texas in the south, north to Wisconsin in the west and New York and New Hampshire in the east.

  • Today, the Timber Rattlesnake has disappeared from three states: Delaware, Maine and Rhode Island.

  • The Timber Rattlesnake is considered rare to imperiled in 16 states.
    • It is protected as an endangered species in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Vermont and Virginia.
    • A threatened species in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, New York and Texas.
    • A protected species in Maryland and Kansas.
    • And is protected from take in Oklahoma and Pennsylvania.

  • The Timber Rattlesnake is currently listed as a Protected Wild Animal in Wisconsin.

Timber Rattlesnake Bites

  • Snake venom is composed of complex proteins that act upon the nervous and circulatory systems.

  • The venom and its delivery system (glands and fangs) serve to help the snake procure prey, aid in digestion, and secondarily as a defensive weapon against predators.

  • Snake venom holds promise for a variety of medical uses. Pit viper venom contains an enzyme that digests the walls of blood vessels, leading to internal hemorrhaging, and a natural anticoagulant that prevents blood clotting.

  • According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, about 8,000 people a year receive venomous bites in the United States, and only nine to 15 victims die.

  • More people die from wasp and bee stings than from snake bites.

Source: http://www.mpm.edu/collect/vertzo/herp/timber/factshe1.html (The Timber Rattlesnake Web site)

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