Conservationists Are Planning a Rattlesnake Colony on an Island in Massachusetts


In an attempt to save the endangered—and highly poisonous—timber rattlesnake from extinction, the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife has brainstormed a conservation strategy that seems to be lifted straight from a horror film.

According to The Guardian, the organization plans to release eight young snakes that were bred in captivity onto an uninhabited island. There, the snakes will hopefully survive, breed, and establish a thriving colony. Experts hope that their numbers will eventually expand to 35—and perhaps someday, 150. The plot twist? The island is connected to the mainland by a pair of narrow causeways. Plus, the snakes can also swim.

The 3.6-mile-long island of Mount Zion sits in the middle of the state’s Quabbin Reservoir, about 65 miles west of Boston. Officials hope that the secluded swath of wilderness will provide the snakes with an abundance of food and shelter. However, The Washington Post reports that residents of nearby cities like Ware and Hardwick worry that the snakes will leave their brand-new home and slither their way across the water toward civilization.

Project director Tom French has attempted to assuage their fears, saying the snakes couldn’t hibernate in human habitats, and that they would probably die from cold if they were to leave Mount Zion during the winter. French also notes that there haven’t been any recorded deaths from rattlesnake bites in the state since Colonial times.

In fact, humans pose a much greater risk to the snakes than vice versa. Thanks to mass deforestation and human-caused deaths, the native timber rattlesnake population in Massachusetts has dwindled so much that only 200 or so of the indigenous creatures remain in the state. A protected island colony of the creatures may be nerve-wracking, but it’s also necessary, according to French. The first snakes are scheduled to arrive on Mount Zion Island in spring 2017.

While locals might be wary of the prospect of a burgeoning snake population in their backyards, at least they’re not the citizens of Sao Paolo, Brazil. Off the coast of that city sits an island called Ilha de Quimada Grande or, "Snake Island." It's filled with hundreds of thousands of poisonous golden lancehead snakes—a much scarier prospect than a handful of timber rattlesnakes, which are described as “not particularly aggressive” and “almost never encountered by people.”

For more about the colony, watch an interview with French in the video above.

[h/t The Guardian]

Header image via iStock.