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280 Kane St. STE #2
South Williamsport, PA
United States

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The Roving Sportsman: Rattlers and Red Squirrels

Having grown up in Lycoming County, and spent most of the years of my life roaming its hills and streams, it has been a natural progression to be an avid lover of nature and to enjoy the outdoor sporting opportunities that this wonderful area provides. Through the years, my respect and admiration of all the

Having grown up in Lycoming County, and spent most of the years of my life roaming its hills and streams, it has been a natural progression to be an avid lover of nature and to enjoy the outdoor sporting opportunities that this wonderful area provides. Through the years, my respect and admiration of all the wonders of nature has continued to grow — except for the rattlesnake and the red squirrel!

Yes, I am well aware of the interaction of all species, and that each and every creature has a purpose in the balance of our natural world, but these two do not fulfill a purpose that cannot be fulfilled by other much more pleasant species. At least, this is my opinion, which you may or may not share.

Take the rattlesnake, for example. While they do prefer to be left alone and, if they sense your presence, would rather move out of your way and be left undisturbed, they can, on occasion, be somewhat aggressive. It is said that during the period when they are shedding their skins and their eyes become glazed over in the process that they can be more aggressive. With their reduced visibility, they may tend to lash out, or strike at things that their limited vision does not allow them to identify properly. And there are the times when, if you come upon them suddenly and they are surprised by your presence, they may strike out of a sense of self defense. This is natural on their part, but it can have very unpleasant results for you or your pet.

So what can you do? The first step is to educate yourself about our timber rattlers. It was just last year that the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission announced that they were taking the timber rattlesnake off the endangered list because their numbers had finally increased to a level where they no longer needed to be listed as endangered in Pennsylvania. For you, that means that there is an increased chance that you may encounter one when hiking, hunting, or fishing. But, if you leave them alone, they tend to leave you alone.

Legally, there is a rather complex procedure in place if you wish to take a rattlesnake and wish to comply with the laws. First, you will need a current fishing license and must obtain a valid annual permit to hunt, take, catch, kill or possess a timber rattlesnake (or copperhead, for that matter). With the proper license and permit, you can take one per year during the season of June 9 to July 31, 2018. It must be at least 42 inches in length and must possess 21 or more subcaudal scales (identifying it as a male). But there is more to the regulation, and if you are serious about the proper procedures, you need to refer to the 2018 edition of the Pennsylvania Fishing Summary handbook. Reptile seasons, limits, and regulations are covered on page 17 of the manual.

In support of leaving rattlesnakes alone, I was told by an unnamed Fish and Boat Commission Law Enforcement Officer that, “You should leave rattlesnakes alone since they are what keep the ‘Flatlanders” at home in the city!”

As for the red squirrel, well, he can be an annoying and nasty little fellow. He is the one that sits on a nearby pine tree limb and chatters continually his warning to all other game — alerting them to your presence when you are trying to sit quietly in wait for an unsuspecting turkey or deer to come by. And he has a nasty appetite for flesh! Yes, they have been known to eat bird eggs and even young baby birds! Around your house or surrounding buildings, they have been known to chew on phone and electrical wiring, sometimes causing appreciable damage.

Red squirrels are (perhaps unfortunately) lumped in with the gray and fox squirrels and thus are legally taken only during the regular seasons for squirrel hunting. (Who the heck would eat a red squirrel?). If, however, you are having a problem with a red squirrel entering a building and doing damage to equipment or wiring, you may be able to get permission from the Northcentral Regional office of the Pennsylvania Game Commission in Jersey Shore to eradicate it.

If you are having any problems with either of these species, there are legal ways to deal with them. And now you know!

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