Largest venomous rattlesnakes in N. America tracked in Francis Marion

Published: Apr. 14, 2014 at 10:50 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 15, 2014 at 12:32 AM EDT
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BERKELEY COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - A search team at the Francis Marion National Forest has been tracking eastern diamondback rattlesnakes.

Francis Marion biologist Mark Danaher said, "It's our largest venomous snake that we have in the United States."

The team is using technology to tag and track the rattlesnakes, not all that different, but much bigger than a microchip in your pet.

Dr. Clarence Abercrombie has been helping with the search. He said, "If you want to keep up with where a cryptic is, you need to have some technology helping you out. That technology will consist of transmitter, which is implanted in your target snake, a receiver which picks up the signal given and of course antenna and lead wire."

In the past three weeks they have found four diamondbacks, but only one was big enough to be tagged and tracked.

Danaher said, "That'll give us the opportunity to track that snake's movements and see what type of habitats it's using on the forest."

Danaher says the diamondback is found mostly in the southeastern region of the U.S. Danaher says these snakes don't go after people unless they're provoked.

"A venomous snake is no different from say a hornet's nest or a wasp's nest. Nobody would go up and batter and try to handle to a hornet's nest, so the same care should be given to a snake," said Danaher.

Danaher is hoping South Carolina will follow the lead of North Carolina and add the diamondback to the endangered species list.

Danaher said, "I know a lot of people are going to be asking, why we would care about a venomous snake like the eastern diamondback rattlesnake?"

He says the answer is quite simple. It's all about balance of the ecosystem.

"If you take a species like the eastern diamondback out of the ecosystem, your rodent and rat populations could go sky high," said Danaher.

It's against the law to collect or kill eastern diamondbacks and other animals in the Francis Marion Forest without a permit. Those who are caught could be fined $5,000 and face six months in prison.?

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