Saturday, April 10, 2010

Pit Vipers in Oakland County?

Pit Vipers in Oakland County? You bet! A few weeks ago our reclusive population of Massasaugas, sometimes known as swamp rattlers, emerged from hibernation in wetland habitats. Many spent all winter submerged in crayfish burrows. Some sections of Oakland County provide excellent habitat for this reclusive,venomous snake, a snake fully protected by law. As sunshine warms the land they slither about trying to avoid human contact, for we are too large and aggressive to be a menu item.  The massasauga is Michigan's only venomous snake and a small one at that, generally under two feet long.  If you were foolish enough to grab one for inspection you would notice that like all pit vipers, they have a triangular shaped head, cat-like eyes with vertical slits and  heat sensing pits between  eyes and nostrils. And if you want to avoid snake bite, it's easy. Don't pick them up! And what good are they? Our fanged-friends may wonder what good are we. (Good news: Medical  researchers are studying their venom's anti-clotting  properties.  Bad news:  Many people, including some  ER docs  and EMS medics do not know we have rattlers slithering in our county.)  The bottom photo was shot last spring at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly.


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