Friday, September 16, 2016

For Goodness Snakes

The city of La Crosse Park and Rec. Dept. hosted a very interesting program on the Timber Rattle Snake at the Myrick Center. I attended along with 100 plus other people and very glad I did.

Snakes have long gotten a bad rapt, remember the story of Adam and Eve. Armund Bartz,  a WI DNR Endangered Resources Ecologist for the Driftless Area convinced us how we can live with Timber Rattle Snakes. A species of concern since their populations were dramatically reduced up until the 1970's. Bounty's resulted in thousands killed annually, shot, den's dynamited and hunted for the fun of it. Todays numbers are seriously low. The blufflands of the driftless region are the type of habitat they need to survive.

The Timber Rattle Snake is slow to recover since females do not reproduce until seven to even nine years of age. Then they only give birth (yes live birth instead of eggs) once every three years on average in the month of September. That's not a very rapid rate of reproduction. The female after becoming pregnant doesn't eat again until she gives birth, almost a year later. Then she needs several years to regain enough body mass to reproduce again.

Unlike other Rattle Snakes our area species isn't aggressive in nature and most snake bites are from provocation. Typically adult male between the ages of 18-35, with some alcohol involved if you get the picture.

The snakes are ambush predators that lie in wait for small mammals, often a rodent species to cross their path. Speaking of paths, when hiking around Perrot State Park staying on the path is always recommended. Going off treppsing in the woods, you need to be on the look out when steeping over logs since the Timber Rattler likes to wait for furry critters to scuttle across them.

Named for being a woodland creature they do seek the open sunny rocky locations the bluffs provide. The female even requires these warm rocky ledges for her gestation period. The limestone formations also provide cave like dens, created naturally, suitable for their hibernation.

We learned when encountering a Timber Rattler staying a minimum of five feet away is recommended. They can strike out at least half their bodies length. As a protected species in the park just give them some space and they will retreat. It was interesting and important to know that a dead snake can still bite you up to 24 hours after it's death.

More often a Rattle Snake will inflict a dry bite on a human. Meaning no venom has been injected. At least most adult snakes are wise enough not to waist it on something it can't eat. Age does make one wiser even in the animal kingdom. Keep in mind your pet dog is required to be on a leash in parks for this very good reason. Many a dog can get bit on the face, nosing around in the woods.

You'll know you've got a serious bite if it begins to burn, the local hospitals, Mayo and Gundersen both stock antivenin just in case. The last person in Wisconsin to die from a bite was in the early 1900's. I even met the victums sister who recalls the day on her family farm. The siblings were playin around the hay bales when her sister got bit. Even if you get treatment right away there can be life long damage.

I still have never seen one myself in the wild and would hope to some day, at a distance of course. Here are some of the identifiers. Heavy bodied, banded stripes, heart shaped or triangular head, slit pupils, rattle on tail and tail is black towards at the end. Baby snakes have a tan button on the end of their tails. When moving they also tend to keep the rattle angled upwards.


1 comment:

  1. That's a lot of snake trivia to digest. Sounds like it was a fascinating program.