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Timber Rattlesnake Disease

The timber rattlesnake was once a defiant symbol for a young country fighting for its independence. Coupled with the famous warning, “Don’t tread on me,” it represented America’s anger and resolve to protect our civil liberties. But today the timber rattler is fighting for its very existence. Not only is it losing its home due to development and losing its life to indiscriminate killing, it’s falling victim to a vicious disease…chrysosporium, a deadly fungus that is infecting rattlesnakes in increasing numbers.

The timber rattler is listed as endangered in at least six states, is threatened in others and appears headed that way right here in Tennessee. Wild Side Guide Alan Griggs shows us how misunderstanding and fear are slowly eliminating one of man’s most important allies.

The fungal infection found on the rattlesnakes is common among some pet species, but is rarely found in the wild. Biologists don’t know how many snakes have been infected and there is currently no treatment available. Before you start thinking that we can do without such an animal, remember that these snakes are the chief way nature keeps the rodent population, including disease-carrying rats, under control. Poisonous snakes are also important research animals in the study of high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer. Scientists believe that the proteins that make snake venom so deadly could also be a source of healing for millions of Americans.

It’s important to remember that a rattlesnake will usually not strike unless it is surprised or provoked. If you come across a rattlesnake, keep in mind that most always it wants to get away from you as much as you want to move away from it. Snakes are protected by law in Tennessee, which means it’s against the law to kill a snake…even a poisonous one…unless you are in imminent danger.

To learn more about timber rattlers and other snakes that live in our state, visit the TWRA’s Watchable Wildlife website or this link on the Tennessee Herpetological Society’s website.

For more on chrysosporium and it’s affect on rattlesnakes:

From show 2505.