The U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service (FWS) has proposed listing the Eastern Massasauga
rattlesnake as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.
The Service will
not propose critical habitat for the species, deeming it not prudent,
according to a statement released by FWS on Tuesday.
are found in scattered locations in Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan,
Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Ontario,
Canada. They used to be not uncommon finds in the Indiana Dunes, with
reports of sightings--and bitings--occasionally appearing in the pages of
the Chesterton Tribune during the first half of the last century.
It’s been fully 13
years, however--as far as anyone knows for sure--since an Eastern Massasauga
has been identified in the Dunes. The last one was trapped in September 2002
by a biotechnician with the U.S. Geological Survey, as part of an inventory
of the vertebrates at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
Massasauga’s rarity here is indicative of its rarity pretty much everywhere,
FWS said. Since 1999 its been a candidate for listing as a threatened
species, “due to loss of its wetland habitat and intentional killing by
people who fear the snake.”
“More than 30
percent of the historical populations are now extirpated and many more (20
percent) are of uncertain status,” FWS noted. “Of those populations that are
known to remain, most are experiencing ongoing threats, meaning additional
population losses are anticipated in the future.”
FWS describes the
Eastern Massasauga as a small timid snake with a thick body, heart-shaped
head, and vertical pupils. The average length of an adult is about two feet.
The snake’s tail has several dark brown rings and is tipped by gray-yellow
rattles. Eastern Massasaugas eat small rodents such as mice and voles, but
they will sometimes eat frogs and other snakes.
“People’s fear of
the Massasauga and the species’ resultant persecution are largely
unwarranted,” FWS said. “These are docile, secretive snakes that will try to
escape rather than fight.”
live in wet prairies, marshes, and low areas along rivers and lakes. In many
areas Massasaugas also use adjacent uplands during part of the year. They
often hibernate in crayfish burrows but they may also be found under logs
and tree roots or in small mammal burrows. “Massasaugas use a mix of wetland
and upland habitat that is important to many other species of wildlife as
well as to humans,” FWS said. “Wetland habitats increase groundwater
resources and improve water quality.”
Massasauga is currently listed as endangered, threatened, or a species of
concern under state or provincial laws in every state and province in which
it lives. The Fish and Wildlife Service and partners have been working
together to conserve Eastern Massasauga populations since the species was
named a candidate in 1999.
appears in the Sept. 30 Federal Register, opening a 60-day public comment
period. Submit comments as follows:
Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal