Wednesday, July 27, 2016

There's a Rattlesnake in the Neighborhood

A timber rattlesnake found in Manchester, NJ
(Credit: Manchester Police)
There is something about seeing certain species that automatically put the average citizen into panic mode. This is true with sharks, bats, some insects and snakes. For all of those examples, there are different species within our state of shoreline and some are potentially dangerous while others are not at all.

The danger for these species is that many people react in the same way to all of them - kill them.

The summer always brings media reports of sharks offshore and sometimes of snakes.

New Jersey has a good number of snake species (22), but only two are venomous - the timber rattlesnake and the copperhead. I have written often here about snakes, particularly because four are endangered or threatened.

One of the endangered snakes is the timber rattlesnake and this month a sighting in a New Jersey neighborhood made its way onto the NY TV news.

A CBS News report said that rattlesnakes have been spotted "slithering" around Manchester Township, in Ocean County.

The timber rattlesnake inhabits three areas of NJ – the Kittatinny Ridge and the northernmost portion of the Highlands as well as the sprawling Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey.

The copperhead is limited to hilly, forested regions in portions of northern New Jersey and a few isolated, hilly areas of Hunterdon and Somerset counties.

Everyone knows that the rattlesnake has its rattle to distinguish it from other snakes, but many other snakes mimic the rattlesnake by shaking their tails on leaves, twigs and other objects.

A rattlesnake has jagged and dark bands extending from side to side around the center and back end of the snake.

They are a rare sighting, but, yes, being bitten by one can cause death. Police in Manchester posted photos on Facebook, warning residents of confirmed sightings of a venomous snake of about five feet in length near Pershing Avenue in the Whiting section of the township.

Timber rattlesnakes like to bask in the sun when they come out of their dens in May, but are passive unless they are threatened or provoked - whether that is intentional or accidental. Now is the mating season, and male timber rattlesnakes are out seeking out females.

Of course, you should not approach or try to handle them or remain in the area. You should not try to kill them. In New Jersey, they are on the endangered species list and intentionally killing one is illegal.

If you see a timber rattlesnake, you should note the time and place and call the New Jersey Endangered and Non-Game Species Program at (609) 628-2103 for southern New Jersey, (908) 735-8975 or (908) 735-9281 for northern New Jersey, or (877) WARN-DEP on weeknights or weekends.

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