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Prairie Rattlesnake

Status

Prairie RattlesnakeUnder the 1987 Alberta Wildlife Act, Prairie Rattlesnakes were listed as non-license animals which can generally be hunted or harvested without a permit. Specific restrictions, however, prevented the sale or live possession of Prairie Rattlesnakes, and hibernacula were offered protection from disturbance between September 1st and April 30th. In January 1997, the legal designation of the Prairie Rattlesnake was changed to non-game animal. This new designation increased the amount of protection available for this species by making it illegal to kill, possess, buy or sell rattlesnakes in Alberta. Despite these legal regulations, rattlesnakes can still be killed if they pose a threat to individual safety.

One of the first unofficial status designations for the Prairie Rattlesnake in Alberta was assigned by the Alberta Committee on Rare and Endangered Species, which described this species as "locally abundant in southeastern Alberta". In 1991, the Prairie Rattlesnake was designated as a Blue-listed species in Alberta, and has retained this status in a recent revision of the provincial color lists. As a Blue-listed species, the Prairie Rattlesnake "may be at risk" and, although not immediately threatened, the species is thought to be susceptible to habitat disturbance, population decline, or reductions in provincial distribution.

Additional protection is also available for wildlife and wildlife habitat located within national and provincial parks, provincial Natural Areas, and Ecological Reserves.

Prairie Rattlesnake populations are known to exist within Prairie Rattlesnakes Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park, Dinosaur Provincial Park, and the Kennedy Creek/Milk River Canyon Ecological Reserve. In addition, "large" populations have been found within the Canadian Forces Base Suffield, of which 440 km has been proposed as a National Wildlife Area, and on the federally-owned Onefour Experimental Farm. Increased protection for endangered wildlife is expected to occur with the introduction of the Canadian Endangered Species Protection Act which is currently being reviewed by the House of Commons. Whether the Prairie Rattlesnake will be among the species protected by this act is yet to be determined.

Reprinted from Alberta Wildlife Status Report No. 6 (1997), with permission from Alberta Sustainable Resource Development.

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