Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Pennsylvania Change in Rattlesnake Status Likely

Bob Frye of the Pittsburgh Tribune recently reported that the timber rattlesnake in Pennsylvania my be removed from it's current listing as a "candidate" species. Protection of the timber rattlesnake may not change. Currently person's are allowed to catch and/or kill only 1 rattlesnake annually from June 11 through July 31 and it must be at least 42 inches long and possess 21 or more subcaudal scales and it is unlawful to hunt, take, catch, or kill Timber Rattlesnakes west of Route 15 and south of Interstate 81 to the Maryland line where there is no open season except as provided in Chapter 79.7(f) (Fish & Boat Code). You can view the 2016 PA Fish and Boat Commission regulations by clicking here.
"The timber rattlesnake has been classified as a “candidate” species — one on the verge of being considered endangered or threatened — in Pennsylvania for three decades. That might soon change.

With some new sampling showing there likely are more of the snakes than previously thought, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commissioners gave preliminary approval to a proposal to remove them from the candidate list and instead manage them as a common species. Final approval could come as soon as the board's next meeting in January.

Chris Urban, chief of the commission's natural diversity section, said a number of species initially were labeled candidates because “we didn't have a lot of information.” Rattlesnakes, he added, were among the first to get candidate status, back in the mid-1970s, when overhunting and habitat loss were thought to have caused “significant declines” in their numbers. 

The commission has put a lot of effort into studying them since, he added. Most recently, between 2003 and 2014 the commission surveyed at least 50 percent of the rattlesnake's historic range statewide. That added up to 1,742 sites. Rattlers were found in 51 of 67 counties, with populations stable in key areas, such as in northcentral Pennsylvania, Urban said. The vast expanse of public land there “has really allowed them to thrive,” he added. 

That data makes biologists comfortable with delisting them, he said. That is not to say they won't be protected, though. Urban said they will be managed like game species, with seasons and bag limits as well as a recovery plan."

To read full story click here.

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