The last Log Lunch of Winter Study featured Tom Tyning— Professor of Environmental Science at Berkshire Community College—who discussed New England’s most endangered vertebrate: the Timber Rattlesnake. This rare reptile is found in the eastern portion of North America, though it has now been extirpated completely from many states due to deforestation and subsequent habitat fragmentation. In fact, Massachusetts now contains between two hundred and three hundred & fifty individuals. Although these snakes live long lives—up to fifty years—female Timber Rattlesnakes have a very low reproductive rate and their young have a low percentage of survival. Therefore, monitoring population dynamics of this animal through methods such as radio tracking is critical for ensuring their survival.
Although this species is uniquely North American, public attitudes towards the Timber Rattlesnakes (as well as snakes in general) have hindered organized efforts to rejuvenate the wild population. Prof. Tyning mentioned the importance of “knowing and caring for the critters in your own backyard” rather than focusing solely on charismatic megafauna, such as “African wildlife.”