The timber rattlesnake is the only poisonous snake living in New Hampshire but there aren’t many of them, partly because we’re at the northern edge of its range and partly because people have destroyed much of its habitat.

New Hampshire Fish and Game biologists are trying to figure out the easiest may to increase numbers of this endangered reptile, and their report just out in the publication Northeastern Naturalist describes one. Since rattlesnakes need sunny places to soak up some rays, especially pregnant females, it helps to get rid of trees that case shade open, rocky ledges where they live.

We used a before–after, control–impact study to test for the effects of tree removal on environmental temperature and Timber Rattlesnake and other wildlife use of 3 potential basking sites. Mean temperatures were significantly higher and more variable post-treatment, while minimum temperatures were relatively unaffected. The number of temperature readings within the span of selected body temperatures of gravid female Timber Rattlesnakes (25.2–31.7 °C) increased post-treatment. Using time-lapse cameras, we detected rattlesnakes during 5 days at post-treatment sites but on only 1 day at a control site.

The paper is linked from the Fish and Game website about the timber rattlesnake (which has a great Latin name: Crotalus horridus), right here. it’s the link titled “Tree Removal Likely Improves Thermal Quality of Basking Sites for an Imperiled Timber Rattlesnake Population at the Northern Edge of its Range.”

State biologists are always tight-lipped about where timber rattler populations are exactly, because they’re afraid people will collect them for private sale. Or they might freak out and kill them because people are irrational about snakes, as Massachusetts found out when it tried to set up a rattlesnake preserve on an island. I once encountered a rattler on a hiking trail in New York state, on a ridge where they’re relatively common. Gorgeous animal – didn’t bother us if we didn’t bother it.

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