Snakes on the AT in Connecticut

Yes, there are snakes on the AT in Connecticut, including the venomous timber rattler. But snake bites are rare and most often happen when someone tries to handle the snake. The timber rattlesnake is an endangered species in Connecticut and is protected by law. To encounter a timber rattler in the wild is a rare and special occurrence. Look, but don’t touch. Give it a wide berth. For information on the timber rattler, see the CT DEP website at http://dep.state.ct.us/burnatr/wildlife/factshts/rattle.htm.

According to Paul Palmer, who monitors State Endangered Species, timber rattlesnakes "…are very shy and spook away at vibrations from footfalls. They are almost never aggressive -- and then only if actually touched while sunning on ledges. My encounters didn't even cause them to erect their rattles, so they would be unlikely to strike if it could be avoided..."

According to the American Red Cross, these steps should be taken when bitten by a snake:

Some medical professionals, along with the American Red Cross, cautiously recommend two other measures:

The following are comments from Hank Gruner at the Science Center in Connecticut:

A bite by any venomous snake including the timber rattlesnake should be treated as a serious medical emergency. Because of their size and venom yield, timber rattlesnakes are capable of delivering a fatal bite in humans. However, because antivenin is highly effective at treating bites and is readily available in hospitals throughout the eastern U.S., fatalities are almost non-existent.

There are many factors that come into play and that will determine the severity of a particular bite including the amount of venom injected by the snake (dry bites where little or no venom is injected occur in an estimated 25-30% of bites), the location of the bite on the body, whether the bite occurred on bare skin or through clothing, and the age and overall health of the victim. The top priority in any case of a venomous snakebite should be to get the victim to a hospital for observation and treatment.

Although timber rattlesnakes may be encountered along the Appalachian Trail in eastern New York, Connecticut and the Berkshires of Massachusetts from mid-May through September, the chances of being bitten by a rattlesnake are extremely remote. Of the six confirmed rattlesnake bites that I am aware of in Connecticut dating from the 1950s to the present, only one did not involve the individual attempting to handle the snake (this most recent bite). Of these six bites only two have occurred along the Trail. Timber rattlesnakes are large snakes, difficult to miss if they are on the immediate trail. Their non-aggressive disposition also makes it unlikely that an unseen rattlesnake coiled near the trail or in the forest will strike unless seriously provoked.

I would offer the following suggestions to those hiking in "rattlesnake areas."