Rattlesnakes seen near Connellsville schools

| Friday, July 12, 2013, 6:57 p.m.

Just a few miles from Connellsville High School and Connellsville Junior High, rattlesnakes have been spotted both this summer and last summer.

While Sgt. Tom Crise of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission could not confirm there are venomous timber rattlesnakes in the area, he said it could be possible a few are here and may have made their way down from the nearby mountainous area.

Connellsville resident Kolby Wagner said he saw his first rattlesnake last July while visiting a residence near McCoy Hollow Road just outside the city limits.

“I was there helping (the resident) with some work, and with all of his wood piles, I said he probably sees a lot of snakes,” Wagner recalled. “He said, ‘Not really,' but just a few minutes after that, he turned around and said, ‘Hey, look over there.' ”

Wagner said when he looked, there was a snake with a fluorescent yellow color just about 20 feet into the woods from the resident's yard.

“It stuck out like a sore thumb,” he said, adding that they could tell right away it was a rattlesnake. “Once I saw it, I went the other way.”

Last month, another resident, who declined to be identified, said he was doing some work in the woods near the Connellsville Township Municipal Building. The person for whom he was working told him to be careful because rattlesnakes had been seen in the area.

He said he worked the entire time without seeing a rattlesnake, but when he was leaving, he saw one stretched across McCoy Hollow Road.

While it was moving around a little, the snake looked like it had been injured, possibly by being run over by a vehicle, he said.

According to the commission's website, timber rattlesnakes inhabit the mountainous regions of the state, preferring the upland forested areas where there are lots of small mammals, like mice and chipmunks, on which to feed.

The rattlers are attracted to rocky ledges and outcrops because they like to bask in the sun, especially after eating; the sun provides energy for them to digest their food.

The website noted that timber rattlesnakes emerge from their dens in mid-April to late April and they remain active through October.

In Pennsylvania, the timber rattlesnake is listed as a candidate species, which means it could achieve threatened or endangered status.

The website noted that if left unprovoked, the timber rattlesnake is actually one of Pennsylvania's more timid and docile snake species, striking only when cornered or threatened.

Crise said that if an individual comes in contact with a rattlesnake, they should not try to harm it since they are protected.

As far as safety precautions for hikers or those walking through the woods, he said individuals should use common sense, wearing long pants and close-toed shoes.

“Be observant, know their habitat and be aware of where you're putting down your hands or feet,” Crise said.

Finally, if you see a rattler, the best thing to do is walk away.

Rachel Basinger is a freelance writer.

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