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Prairie Rattlesnake

Management

In general, management of rattlesnakes in Alberta currently consists of relocation by local authorities when these snakes are encountered by the public. However, there are a number of initiatives in the province that are addressing management issues, or that are collecting and disseminating information that should lead to improved management of Prairie Rattlesnakes in the future.

Limited knowledge of historic distribution and population trends, as well as a lack of sufficient baseline data on species biology, has made the assignment of herpetofauna to status levels extremely difficult. From the sparse historic data that are available, it appears that Prairie Rattlesnake distribution experienced some decrease in Alberta prior to 1978. However, comparison of current distribution reveals that relatively little change in rattlesnake distribution has occurred in the last 20 years.

Prairie Rattlesnake numbers are thought to be increasing at only one site, but declining at a large number of other localities in Alberta.  If the apparent trends are accurate, there is considerable cause for concern, as the low recruitment and reproductive capacity of this species means an extended time frame may be required for populations to recover. In addition, although the Prairie Rattlesnake is legally protected from killing or destruction of hibernacula in the province, this species remains at risk because the aggregation of rattlesnakes in spring and fall, as well as the high fidelity of den sites, makes this species vulnerable to rapid and severe decreases in population size if such events do occur. 

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

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