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Help track Vermont’s 11 snake species

MIDDLEBURY — Biologists are asking the public to report snake sightings this fall to the Vermont Reptile and Amphibian Atlas to help document the extent of the state’s 11 snake species.
“Fall is an ideal time to see snakes as they move to their winter den sites,” said Jim Andrews, coordinator of the Vermont Reptile and Amphibian Atlas.  “Vermont’s snakes can be identified by their wide variety of patterns and markings, which can be quite beautiful.”
The first hard frost each fall signals to snakes that it’s time to move to their winter denning sites.  On the first warm day after a frost when temperatures approach the 60s and the sun is out, many species of snakes will warm up enough to start moving uphill.  They are especially easy to spot on quiet back roads that separate overgrown wet fields or beaver meadows from a dry rocky hardwood forest. 
“Vermont’s snakes are generally harmless, and they play an important role in the ecosystem in addition to directly benefitting people,” said Doug Blodgett, wildlife biologist for the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.  “Larger snakes eat rodents like mice or voles, which carry the ticks that spread Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses, while some of our smaller snakes eat slugs and snails.”
Cooler mountainous areas of the state and the Northeast Kingdom only have three known species of snakes — the common gartersnake, red-bellied snake and ring-necked snake.  Warmer lowland areas have a wider variety of species including milksnakes, DeKay’s brownsnakes, and common watersnakes.  Timber rattlesnakes are Vermont’s one venomous species; they are found only in isolated pockets of western Rutland County, and are generally secretive and docile.
“Sadly, many snakes get hit while crossing the road or sunning themselves on the road during this fall migration,” said Andrews, a Salisbury resident.  “If you find a crossing area, please photograph each species crossing and report them, making sure to be careful of traffic as you do.”
Snakes and other reptiles and amphibians can be reported online via VtHerpAtlas.org or by email directly to Jim Andrews at [email protected]

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