Friday, May 13, 2011

A Rattlesnake Encounter In Pennsylvania Elk Country

On May 12, 2011, Paul Staniszewski and Ronald "Buckwheat Saffer" traveled to Pennsylvania Elk Country for a day of wildlife photography and Paul shares the results of a special encounter with us that they had that day.

In Paul's words:
 "The main goal of the trip to Benezette was of course to obtain photographs of bull and maybe cow elk on Gray Hill and Winslow Hill. We found the bulls starting to sprout their new antlers and the cows getting ready to give birth. Things quieted down about 9:00AM as usual and then we decided to look for rattlesnakes. A drive put us in an isolated area and after a short walk, we discovered five black phase timber rattlesnakes basking in the morning sun. After a few minutes, the snakes quit buzzing and we were able to approach to within six feet of the group and took several photographs.

Timber Rattlesnake: Photo Courtesy of Paul Staniszewski all rights reserved
In the end, the snakes were left undisturbed and did not seem at all upset.

A special thanks to Ronald J. "Buckwheat" Saffer, a naturalist and professional wildlife photographer for sharing his experience and knowledge of nature and photography. I will remember this great day in the wilderness with Buckwheat and the new respect and appreciation I have learned for these beautiful creatures of nature."

Paul Staniszewski

I wish to thank Paul for sharing this special experience with us.  Reading this brings to mind how things have changed since my youth.I  well recall when game animals were held in a certain esteem to the extent that they were considered to have a useful purpose, which of course  meant to many that they could be shot for food, but most other species such as hawks, owls,eagles,  and snakes were considered vermin and shot or clubbed to death on sight.  Attitudes and laws relating to wildlife have changed greatly since then.  Now we have liberal deer and turkey seasons, and the Pennsylvania Game Commission even decided to establish a porcupine season at its' last meeting,  but some of the formerly persecuted species are now highly protected.  The Timber Rattlesnake is not yet on the Endangered Species list in Pennsylvania, but it is considered a "candidate species" under study and consideration for listing as officially "threatened" or "endangered."

Here is a summary of the rules and regulations covering the taking of Rattlesnakes and Northern Copperhead snakes in Pennsylvania. Source: Summary Book 2011 Pennsylvania Fishing Laws and Regulations.

Timber Rattlesnake: June 11 through July 31
1 annual limit (must be at least 42 inches in length, measured lengthwise along the dorsal surface from the snout to the tail, excluding the rattle, and must possess 21 or more subcaudal scales.

Northern Copperhead: June 11 through July 31 1 annual limit

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.season.

It is unlawful to possess, take, catch, or kill more than one timber rattlesnake or northern copperhead per calendar year except as provided in Chapter 79.7(f) (Fish & Boat Code) relating to organized reptile and amphibian hunt permits. It is unlawful to possess more than one timber rattlesnake or northern copperhead at any time except as provided in Chapter 79.7(f) (Fish & Boat Code).

Subcaudal scales are large flat scales located on the underside of a timber rattlesnake between the vent (anal scale) and the base of the tail rattle.

A permit is required to hunt, take, catch, kill or possess timber rattlesnakes and northern copperhead snakes.

DCNR and the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry makes the following recommendations for dealing with nuisance rattlesnakes in the publication "RATTLESNAKES in Pennsylvania State Forests :

Rattlesnakes that take up temporary residence in high use areas such as in or near cottages,residences, and parks should be removed. It is best to contact the local Conservation Officer of the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission to move such snakes. According to a recent scientific study, displacing a timber rattlesnake 110 yards from its suspected direction of travel is a reasonable solution,considering the well-being of both the snake and the person. The study’s subject snakes were able to get their bearings and continue on, not returning to the incident sites. Displacing rattlesnakes long distances has been shown to drastically affect behavior and jeopardize survival.

Originally posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill


Anonymous said...

If you ever act as a guide helping me find elk, please promise me that we will not purposely go looking for rattlesnakes! I have to admit, though, that Paul's picture of the rattlesnake makes it look *almost* attractive.

Tammy said...

Hope you had a long lens ;)

Feral Female said...

Eep! That`s WAY too close to a rattler to suit me. Great image!

JimB said...

Nice shots of rattler--many of them in Benezett area. One has to be careful there in snake season.

Love the PGC approach-shoot the porcupines-save the snakes!


Rowland Cole said...

I woul;d LOVE to have been in that group, But not too sure if 6ft is a tad close.