BELCHERTOWN, Mass. (WWLP) – The state wants to protect the Timber Rattlesnake species by establishing a colony on Zion Island in the Quabbin Reservoir.

Timber rattlesnakes already live in five locations across the state, but they said they need to breed more snakes on an isolated island, where people can’t kill them.

The Division of Fisheries and Wildlife told 22News the public won’t be in danger, but dozens of residents who crammed into a public hearing on Monday are skeptical.

More than 1,000 local residents have signed an online petition against the state proposal to put rattlesnakes in the Quabbin Reservoir. In that petition, they said they feel as though the state’s not even taking their opinions into consideration.

Tom French, the Assistant Director of the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife told 22News the state will move forward with their plans unless they’re given proof the proposal could harm the public. “If there are good solid reasons why there is something we haven’t thought of, why this could be a threat to the public, we’re looking to hear that,” he said.

Timber rattlesnakes can swim, and many residents are concerned they’d leave the island and swim to shore.

French said the snakes wouldn’t be able to get far, because they’d be tracked with GPS.

Safety wasn’t the only concern among residents, others, like Thomas Kularski of West Brookfield, said they’d rather see their tax money spent on different projects. “There’s a lot of ways we can spend money in the Quabbin are to benefit the public other than putting rattlesnakes in there,” he said.

French also said since the native species are in danger of becoming extinct, this proposal is one of the state’s priorities. “In the case of people not wanting their tax dollars spent, that’s really more of just another way to try and stop something because there’s no good biological grounds for it,” he said.

22News also asked French what would happen if someone was bit by a snake, and whether anti-venom would be immediately available.

He sent 22News the following statement:

“As I stated last night, this scenario is so astronomically improbable that it would be irresponsible for either me or you to give it credibility.  In regards to antivenin, it can always be acquired, as needed, no matter where the person is located.  For at least the past 50 years, the only people in Massachusetts who have been bitten by a rattlesnake are people who were unlawfully keeping a rattlesnake as a pet, or were unlawfully capturing or harassing a wild rattlesnake.”

Some residents do support the plan.

A different online petition is in favor of establishing a rattlesnake island.