Saturday, October 2, 2010

Oakland County's Pit Viper: Eastern Massasauga is on the slither!

AN INTOXICATED WHITE MALE ON HIS DOMINANT HAND.  That's the answer to a two part question, "Who is most likely to be bitten by a massasauga rattlesnake,  and where will the fangs puncture the flesh?  With that preamble out of the way, many residents of Oakland County are unaware that we have a healthy and generally well-hidden population of massasauga rattlesnakes, the only pit-viper to be found in Michigan.  These reclusive rattlers are generally timid and only strike when provoked, thus the intoxicated male scenario, "Hey Joe, Watch This!" This past week media has carried stories about  our rattlesnakes.  Almost all had the same error, calling our native and fully protected little swamp rattler a poisonous snake.  They are not poisonous. Poison is absorbed or ingested. Venom is injected! Massasaugas are venomous. We have many plants, poison ivy being one, that are poisonous, but only one snake that packs venom. And so in these early days of October as our Massasaugas slither about in the last pockets of warmth (sometimes sunning themselves on a trail) or hunting for the last frog or mouse enroute to hibernation locations (often a moist crayfish burrow) one would do well to give them a wide berth. They will return the favor.  The snake warning sign  is at Seven Lakes State Park in northern Oakland County, but these rattlers are found in many of our County and Metroparks and perhaps in your yard, perhaps down where the meadow meets the marsh. NOTE: Only venomous snakes have the vertical cat-like pupil 'slit'. But if you are that close, you are way too close! (I used the zoom lens to capture this rattler at Holly State Recreation Area.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amazing photos! I never knew the difference between poisonous and venomous. These blogs are such a fun way to learn about the natural world.

October 3, 2010 at 8:48 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great photos! Glad to hear they're most likely to attack when provoked. I would surly give him the whole trail.

October 3, 2010 at 9:18 PM 
Blogger Sandman said...

Excellent article and pics. Many don't realize they have to watch out for these snakes. These rattlers are seen more frequently this time of year because this is when they den up for the winter. Warm days have them sunning themselves and we are more adept to finding them.

October 8, 2010 at 6:54 AM 

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