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Michigan's Lone Poisonous Snake Receives Federal Protection Under Endangered Species Act

Sep 30, 2016 04:00 AM EDT

The eastern massasauga rattlesnake, the only venomous snake in Michigan, has recently been moved under federal protection in accordance with the Endangered Species Act.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit environmental organization, will be working together to protect 757 endangered species. In 1982, the Fish and Wildlife Service has categorized the massasauga rattlesnake as “endangered,” “threatened” or a “species of special concern."

“The destruction of wetlands and surrounding uplands in the Midwest by urban and agricultural sprawl is leaving the eastern massasauga with few places to live. These long-awaited Endangered Species Act protections can save the massasauga from extinction by saving the habitat it needs to survive," sad Elise Bennet, an attorney from the Center for Biological Diversity.

Detroit Free Press notes that the culprit to the massasaugas dwindling numbers is habitat and food loss due to the rampant construction of farms, roads, etc. These development hinders the massasaugas' migration and travel to other areas where they can find shelter and food, resulting to isolated populations.

Bruce Kingsbury, director of the Environmental Resources Center at Indiana University-Purdue University Ft. Wayne, told the massasaugas they usually find on road or trails are most of the time afraid.

"The snakes don't travel as far as other animals do from habitat patch to habitat patch. Anytime you have paved roads, a farmer's field, a residential area, they will be barriers to the snake, and it will turn around and head back from where it came," Kingsbury added.

According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the eastern massasauga rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus catenatus) is a sluggish, slow-moving venomous snake with a thick body and dark brown exterior color. They do not normally attack humans, but if in danger, their short fangs containing a potent venom could easily puncture the skin.

The massasaugas thrive in open shallow wetlands or shrub swamps during spring while during the summer, they move to drier areas upland. They usually feed on small mammals, insects and amphibians.

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