Monday, August 9, 2010

Responding to New Jersey's Snakes

Timber rattlesnake Photo by Kris Schantz

The NJ DEP's Snake Response Team, coordinated by the Division of Fish and Wildlife's Endangered and Nongame Species Program, helps people when venomous snakes get a little too close for comfort. It also works to dispel fears about the reptiles, using facts, tact and understanding.

Of 22 species found in New Jersey, only the timber rattlesnake and the northern copperhead are venomous – and each of these species is generally shy.

Under the state's Endangered and Nongame Species Conservation Act, it is illegal to kill, harm, harass or collect them or any native, non-game wildlife.

On the NJ Endangered and Threatened list are 4 snakes: the timber rattlesnake, Crotalus h. horridus, the northern pine snake Pituophis m. melanoleucus and the corn snake Elaphe g. guttata and the queen snake Regina septemvittata.

In relocating a venomous snake, the Response Team will look for suitable habitat in the same general area that won't harm the snake or create a conflict with another property owner.

Snakes see us as the predator,and their first choice is to try to lay still and blend in with their surroundings or, if feeling threatened, to try to get away.

Snakes fill an important ecological role, controlling rodents and insects and serving as a food source for raccoons, bobcats, hawks, owls and other animals. In short, snakes are indicators of a healthy, vibrant ecosystem.

Yet each year many are intentionally killed by people who don’t understand them.

Northern copperhead Photo by Mike Muller

The copperhead, one of New Jersey’s least common snakes, is frequently confused with the northern water snake and the eastern milk snake, among the most common species.

Copperheads have a dark-colored pattern that forms hourglass-shaped bands from side to side, but coloration is highly variable among individuals and changes according to seasonal shedding periods.

More Information at

Timber Rattlesnake, Crotalus Horridus Photographic Poster Print by Larry F. Jernigan, 18x24

Timber Rattlesnakes in Vermont & New York: Biology, History, and the Fate of an Endangered Species

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