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Information about the timber rattlesnake

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Posted: Friday, June 17, 2011 5:22 pm

ABOUT THE TIMBER RATTLESNAKE

New Jersey has two populations of timber rattlesnakes. One is in the northern mountains and the other is in a section of the Pine Barrens, north of the Mullica River, west of the Garden State Parkway. It's known among herpetologists as a secretive and docile species that only bites when it is feeding or defending itself. Humans are only ever bitten when they touch the animal, said Dave Golden, a herpetologist with the Department of Environmental Protection.

It tends to live in the thick forests of the Pine Barrens near where it can find food, typically mice or rats, Golden said.

Golden said the snake winters in the same underground den every year and will travel up to five miles away from that den during the warmer months. The species' biggest threat these days comes from getting hit by cars when it crosses roads. It is considered endangered in New Jersey because of loss of habitat, fear killings and traffic deaths. It is illegal to harm, harass or collect the snake.

IF YOU SEE A TIMBER RATTLESNAKE

Do not touch it or pick it up.

"That's usually how something eats them. Unless it's used to being handled the first thing a snake is going to do when it's grabbed is bite back," said Kevin Wilson, Senior Keeper with the Cape May County Zoo, which has two timber rattlesnakes on exhibit and also rehabilitates injured snakes.

If you must move the snake, call 1-877-DEP-WARN, a special hotline for the Department of Environmental Protection to send out trained personnel to help move the animal appropriately.

If the snake makes a warning rattle, just back away. It will not strike at you unless you continue to threaten it.

IF YOU ARE BITTEN BY A POISONOUS SNAKE

Immediately seek medical attention.

Do not try to extract the poison, such as through someone sucking on the wound or skin. Mainland Campus ICU Medical Director Dr. Francis Loftus said that has not been shown to help.

Do not put on a tourniquet or try to stop the venom from moving throughout the body, Loftus said, because that could decrease the already restricted blood flow and increase the possibility of losing the limb.

If you do not know what type of snake bit you, try to get a photograph of it from a safe distance to help medical professionals identify the species. That will help doctors obtain the correct antivenin.

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