BOSTON (WWLP) – A proposal to breed rattlesnakes at the Quabbin Reservoir has been suspended, following a vote of the Massachusetts Fisheries and Wildlife Board.
The plan, announced in early 2016, called for endangered timber rattlesnakes to be bred at Mount Zion, an island in the reservoir. It was very controversial, however, generating opposition from some nearby residents, as well as local lawmakers.
State Senator Eric Lesser (D-Longmeadow) told 22News the plan’s suspension was due to a lack of public support, and the fact that rattlesnakes are already living in five different areas in the state. He said the decision was made to focus on protecting the timber rattlesnakes where they already exist, rather than build a new colony in a new location.
“It is a real relief to know that people are going to be able to go there safely and not have to have a concern of looking down for a rattlesnake,” Jason Talbot of Belchertown said. “I think it’s a good thing. I didn’t support it. My son is 13, if you bring somebody out there to walk around, what’s to say that they’re not going to make it to land.”
Timber rattlesnakes are endangered in Massachusetts, and some saw suspension of the plan as a bad sign for the species. Timothy Barnes of Belchertown said, “I was a big fan of them bringing the rattlesnakes to the island, and allowing a population of rattlesnakes to flourish in the Quabbin, so I’m a little disappointed to hear it won’t be happening.”
Due to the controversy, a Rattlesnake Working Group was established to figure out how to move forward. In a news release sent to 22News, Senator Anne Gobi (D-Spencer) said that protecting endangered species is vitally important, but the plan to locate snakes at the reservoir was not right.
The decision to convene the Rattlesnake Working Group was an important measure to hear from area residents and to determine if this plan was the right one. In the end it wasn’t, but it was an honor to work with all the members of the working group to make this a completely transparent process. I look forward to working with the Baker-Polito Administration to protect existing habitats and increase penalties for those who harm endangered species. – Senator Gobi
Other sites that have been suggested for the breeding of timber rattlesnakes are at existing habitats on Mount Tom, in southern Berkshire County, and at the Blue Hills in the Boston area.