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Fish & Wildlife Dept. initiates study of threatened ratsnake

Observer courtesy photo Hydrogeologist Cindy Sprague of Huntington displays the species of threatened ratsnake that the Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife will be studying over the next three years
Observer courtesy photo
Hydrogeologist Cindy Sprague of Huntington displays the species of
threatened ratsnake that the Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife will be
studying over the next three years

The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department has initiated a threeyear study of an isolated population of Eastern Ratsnakes, a species that is listed as “threatened” under the state’s endangered species law. Researchers plan to surgically implant radio transmitters in two ratsnakes.

They hope the implanted snakes will lead them back to their communal den site, helping to focus future land conservation efforts. The project is being overseen by state wildlife biologist Doug Blodgett and Jim Andrews, coordinator of the Vermont Reptile and Amphibian Atlas. “Ratsnakes, as their name implies, eat rats, mice and other small mammals, and help to control rodent populations,” Blodgett said.

Rodents cause millions of dollars of damage to crops each year nationwide, and are the major carrier of over 60 diseases that are transmissible to humans, including Lyme disease, according to the U.S. U.S. Department of Agriculture. “Some people fear snakes, but given the threats that unchecked rodents can pose, people are actually much safer with healthy snake populations around,” Blodgett said.

The northern population of ratsnakes in Addison County is isolated from another Vermont population centered in Rutland County. This study will provide information for the conservation of the species. Hydrogeologist Cindy Sprague of Huntington is the principal investigator on the project. She has been studying herpetology for several years and is a longtime volunteer with the Vermont Reptile & Amphibian Atlas. “Ratsnakes are my favorite snake because of their large size and docile nature,” said Sprague. “They’re not venomous, eat plenty of rodents and are harmless to humans.”