West Virginia State Forests Seek Public Help With Rattlesnake Research
BRUCETON MILLS, W.Va. – West Virginia State Forests have worked in recent years to collect data on where rattlesnakes live, especially Timber Rattlesnakes. This information is intended to ensure the safety of the reptile and any humans that might cross their path.
The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources is now seeking public assistance in tracking rattlesnakes in two snake-friendly state forests, Kanawha State Forest and Coopers Rock State Forest. This data collection from the public will allow naturalists to collect snakes and set up trackers there so they can better see where these snakes live and if they have high populations near where visitors hike.
Rattlesnakes need to be conserved and forestry officials have said they believe their elimination will ultimately endanger the species. This project allowed managers, as well as guests, to learn more about snakes, rather than immediately moving them.
“Again, I think it’s just education, for the general public and for us. I have to admit that I didn’t know anything about snakes before this project. Now I’m going to stop and let them cross the road if I see one, ”Coopers Rock Superintendent Jan Dzierzak said. “In terms of DNR and the science behind it, we can know where these snakes are, where are they hiding, you know where they are going. That way, we have a better idea of if we’re moving them out of the campground, if we’re actually doing the snake more harm than if we’re letting them be where they were.
Marshall University graduate students help study the data once the snakes are tracked. It was the students who began a translocation study, examining the effects of moving rattlesnakes to reduce contact with humans as one of their main threats, in addition to habitat loss.
“This project started out as a way to see if this relocation of the snakes was really causing them harm, and to find an alternative,” said Vincent Spaid of the DNR. “We also want to find a way to ensure the safety of hikers and campers, but also to cause as little harm as possible to the animals themselves. “
Coopers Rock State Forest has posted signs at each trailhead, with more information and a number to call for visitors if they encounter a rattlesnake on the trail. Forests are asking visitors to report any snake sightings to improve data collection. This number to call is 304-612-7725.
For visitors who come across a snake at any time, the forests ask them to avoid capturing and reporting it. Visitors should slowly walk around the snake and continue. For more information, click here.