TAPPAN — A 57-inch timber rattlesnake has been found dead in the vicinity of Tappan Lake, about 100 miles north of the reptile's usual habitat in southern Ohio.
The snake was struck by a vehicle on Oct. 24 on Harrison County Road 55 (Deersville Road), about 400 yards south of U.S. Route 250 on the east end of the lake. It died a short time later. A person who was in the area at the time saw what happened and reported it to wildlife officials.
"It's kind of exciting to find them this far north," said Nick Turner, Harrison County's wildlife officer.
According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife, "By virtue of their large size, timber rattlers are the most dangerous snakes in northeastern America. Fortunately, when encountered most timber rattlers are mild in disposition unless aroused, and make little attempt to rattle or strike. It is believed to have occurred in at least 25 counties prior to 1800. Today, the timber rattlesnake is listed as an endangered species by the Ohio Division of Wildlife and is known from only seven Ohio counties."
Timber rattlers are normally two to four feet in length, but the one found in Harrison County is nearly five feet long. "It is one of the largest that has been seen in Ohio," Turner said.
This is not the first time that one of the snakes has been seen near Tappan Lake. Turner said he received a report last summer of a timber rattler that crossed a road within a quarter mile of where the snake was killed.
Biologists from the Division of Wildlife will be taking DNA samples from the reptile.
"They want to see if this is in fact a snake from further south that moved into the area or if there is a population here in Harrison County that is unseen," Turner said. "They want to get some DNA from it to see what gender it is, to see if it reproduced and what it has been eating."
He noted that timber rattlers can be dangerous to humans, but they are usually hesitant to strike. Striking is not their first line of defense.
"In the 10 years that I've been in Harrison County, I've never heard of a person being bit," Turner said. "A lot of people hunt in that area, but the snakes want to be left alone."
He said that if residents see a timber rattler, they should report it to the Division of Wildlife and not antagonize it.
Turner can be contacted at 330-245-3049.
Reach Jon at 330-364-8415 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.