Wildlife officers in Maryland have cited seven Green Ridge State Forest visitors after it was discovered that they shot and grilled an endangered timber rattlesnake. According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Police, the group of young men, aged 18 to 19, were also cited for cutting down trees, illegal fishing, possession of marijuana, drug paraphernalia, and other unidentified materials. The unnamed two juveniles in the group were reported to Juvenile Services.
“When officers checked the campsite, they found numerous trees had been chopped down or gashed. They found a timber rattlesnake had been killed with a BB gun and grilled,” officials stated.
Timber rattlesnakes are one of the two venomous snakes in Maryland, along with the northern copperhead. Dwindling numbers across the East Coast have led to the species being listed as endangered in several states, including Maryland, and the snake has disappeared entirely from former ranges in Maine and Rhode Island. Despite the increasing rarity of their sightings, biologists say it is hard to protect the species due to their notorious reputation.
“They’re in dire straits,” Doug Blodgett, a biologist with the Vermont Fish and Wildlife, told NECN. “I can’t think of an animal that is more held in greater contempt or persecuted to the extent that this one is. Just because we may not understand them or we may not particularly like or enjoy a particular species is not the reason to get rid of it.”
Part of the snake’s reputation is well-founded, at least: the timber rattlesnake can be lethal. In fact, the species is often listed among the most dangerous snakes in North America. However, timber rattlesnakes also have a mild temperament and will give lengthy rattles before attacking. Very few fatalities have ever been reported from a timber rattlesnake bite.
That is especially true today, when the species is rarely seen in the American Northeast. Conservationists say the snake is on the verge of becoming extinct in New England, and as small as these snakes may be, their absence could have a giant impact. One that is already being felt is the increase of lyme disease-bearing rodents, which the snake previously controlled.