Click on the myths to learn the facts about timber rattlesnakes and the Mount Zion introduction project.

 

FACT: Rattlesnakes are shy, gentle creatures that want nothing to do with us. There are fewer than five deaths in the US from snakebites annually, including people who refuse treatment. The last known fatality due to a timber rattlesnake in Massachusetts was in 1791.
FACT: Despite the portrayal of venomous snakes in “Snakes on a Plane,” a snake has nothing to gain from chasing a person and does not seek out encounters with humans. Rattlesnakes are not territorial and do not attack. They react. Most snake bites happen when people handle, approach, or try to kill the snake.

Respect snakes, keep your distance, and watch where you put your hands and feet – this would prevent virtually ALL snakebites.

FACT: There are many examples of places with resident rattlesnakes that are heavily visited by tourists, including in Massachusetts. The Blue Hills Reservation near Boston is home to one of the largest populations of timber rattlesnakes in Massachusetts. More than 200,000 people visit the Blue Hills every year and there’s never been an incident or complaint about the rattlesnakes.
FACT: While rattlesnakes are great swimmers, these snakes will have little motivation to leave Mount Zion. Moving is dangerous for rattlesnakes, because they are likely to encounter predators and roads, so they tend to stay as close as possible to their overwinter sites. This island is large and provides ideal habitat as well as plenty of food, giving the snakes little reason to leave. Rattlesnakes released on Mount Zion will be equipped with radio transmitters, so biologists can monitor their movement patterns.

FACT: As the conservationist Aldo Leopold once said, “to keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.” Timber rattlesnakes are an important component of the ecosystem and can have a greater impact on fluctuating prey populations, including those that can spread disease to humans, than their mammalian or avian counterparts.

The timber rattlesnake represents important cultural heritage as well. The iconic Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me” revolutionary battle flag bears the image of a timber rattlesnake. Ben Franklin was fascinated by the timber rattlesnake and referred to the snake as a symbol of America because it is “an emblem of magnanimity and true courage.”

FACT: Only one to ten juvenile snakes will be released on Mount Zion Island every year. Timber rattlesnake females mature in seven to nine years and only reproduce every two to four years depending on external conditions such as food availability. Their litter size is usually six to ten, and many of those will become prey to birds or carnivorous mammals.

Timber rattlesnakes are a classic example of a species vulnerable to extinction and least likely to get out of control.

Timber rattlesnakes with Anne Stengle
Anne Stengle admires a pair of timber rattlesnakes.