Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake now federally protected

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By the AP

and the Tribune

Federal officials are extending legal protection to the Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake, which inhabits a broad section of the northern and central U.S.--including, historically, the Indiana Dunes--but has been in decline for years.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is listing the snake as “threatened,” meaning it’s vulnerable to dying out but not in such peril that it’s considered “endangered.”

The rarely seen Eastern Massasauga inhabits wetland areas from Missouri to New York and parts of the Canadian province of Ontario. Its numbers have fallen, however, as wetlands have been drained for farming and urban development.

Persecution from fearful humans has also hurt.

Elise Bennett of the Center for Biological Diversity says designating the snake as threatened can save habitat it needs to survive.

The snake is among more than 170 species protected under a 2011 settlement between the center and the government.

Eastern Massasaugas were formerly common, or common enough, in the Dunes, but so far as anyone knows the last time one was positively identified here was 14 years ago, in September 2002, when a biotechnician with the U.S. Geological Survey trapped a Massasauga as part of an inventory of the vertebrates at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

In its Oct. 4, 1934, edition, the Chesterton Tribune reported that a Civilian Conservation Corps man by the name of George Marietta was bitten by a Massasauga while cutting weeds at Indiana Dunes State Park.

“The swamps north of here have been the natural home of rattlesnakes for years,” the Trib reported at the time. “When the Public Service company put through their so-called ‘high line’ a few years back there were many rattlesnakes killed by the construction crew. They do not get out of the swamps, as a rule, and they do not strike at people unless they are disturbed.”

“Henry Greening was telling yesterday of a rattlesnake hunt at Burdick about 40 years ago,” the Trib continued, “when a swamp less than an acre in size was set afire, after furrows had been plowed around it. Over 40 rattlesnakes were killed, and many escaped or were roasted in the flames.”

 

 

Posted 9/30/3016

 
 
 
 

 

 

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