Rattlesnake panel to take comments Wednesday(TODAY!) in Ware
The third of the panel's four planned meetings will be held at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Knights of Columbus Hall, 126 West Main St.
Mount Zion, an island in the Quabbin Reservoir that is off-limits to the public, was proposed last year as that habitat. Public backlash at the time prompted the state to form the working group to review the plan and collect more public input.
At the February session in Belchertown, state herpetologist Mike Jones said the timber rattlesnake has been part of the landscape since Colonial times, withstanding the threats of deliberate killing with the incentive of bounties, habitat fragmentation, deforestation and development.
Mr. Jones identified current threats to rattlesnake colonies as loss of habitat, road mortality, incidental killing on trails and adjoining residential areas, off-road vehicle mortality, illegal collection, harassment at dens and basking areas, snake fungal disease and reduced viability from inbreeding.
In response to a question from legislators, he estimated the state's timber rattlesnake population in the Blue Hills south of Boston, the Connecticut Valley and the southern Berkshires at about 200. Two of those colonies, according to Mr. Jones, are in danger of destruction.
A list of questions and concerns about the rattlesnake plan, the results of a public survey, are available at http://www.mass.gov/eea/docs/dfg/nhesp/species-and-conservation/public-questions-and-comments-on-the-rattlesnake-conservation-plan.pdf.
Unlike previous meetings, public comment will be allowed at the Ware session. Each person may speak for up to three minutes.
At past forums, MassWildlife personnel have stated that the historical record lists the last fatal bite from a timber rattlesnake in Massachusetts occurring in 1791.
Speaking to the fear expressed by many that rattlesnakes will overpopulate and spread to adjoining residential areas, either at existing sites or a newly populated site, Natural Heritage and Endangered Species personnel stated, "If that were going to happen, it would have already happened, and the timber rattlesnake wouldn't be listed as an endangered species."