Posted: 8:00 p.m. Monday, Aug. 26, 2013

New Details Clark County

Endangered snake returned to habitat

Clark County fen might be the source of rare rattlesnake.

By Matt Sanctis

Staff Writer

An endangered rattlesnake that was found in a Moorefield Twp. home last week has been returned to the wild, while providing a rare clue as to where the animal can be found in Clark County.

On Friday, staff from the Humane Society Serving Clark County responded to a call at a home on Twitchell Road after the snake was found in a residential driveway. The animal was eventually identified as an Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake, one of three venomous types of snakes found in Ohio.

The snake was captured using a pillow case and a garbage can, said James Straley, executive director of the Humane Society. Staff members called officials from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, who identified the snake and moved it to a more suitable area.

Although it’s not clear how the snake arrived at the residence, a suitable habitat is located at the nearby Prairie Road Fen State Nature Preserve, said Kevin Gribbins, an associate professor of herpetology at Wittenberg University.

Sightings of the endangered snake are rare, in part because the animal avoids people whenever possible, Gribbins said. The snake may have been chasing rodents and accidentally ended up in a residential area, Gribbins said.

It’s not clear how many of the rattlesnakes still exist in Clark County. The other two venomous snakes in Ohio, the Timber Rattlesnake and the Copperhead, are not found in this part of the state.

“No one is doing active research on the population there,” Gribbins said.

One of the few locations where the snake can be found locally is the Cedar Bog Nature Preserve in Champaign County. In recent years, volunteers and members of the Ohio Historical Society have worked to help improve habitat for the snake in that area.

The ODNR’s Division of Wildlife often works with residents and public officials to identify wildlife, said Carolyn Caldwell, program administrator. The agency does not always respond to transport an animal, but may do so if it involves an endangered species.

Finding the snake can be beneficial to researchers, who implant a tag on the animal, allowing them to learn more about its condition, weight and other data. The snake is then released into a suitable habitat.

The Eastern Massasauga’s range used to stretch diagonally from the Cincinnati area to Northeast Ohio and cover 30 counties, Caldwell said. Now, there are only 10 or 12 counties where the snake can be found.

“Very few people ever see them,” Caldwell said.

If residents find wildlife they cannot identify, Caldwell suggested staying back and taking a photo. Residents can use the agency’s web site to contact experts who can identify the animal.

While the Eastern Massasauga is venomous, it usually shies away from humans, she said.

“You can walk right past a Massasauga in a field and never know it’s there at all,” Caldwell said.

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