Protecting Wisconsin’s most endangered reptile during construction projects
It’s National Reptile Awareness Day – a day to promote education, conservation, and appreciation for reptiles.
Did you know the most endangered reptile in our service area is the small, thick-bodied eastern massasuga rattlesnake? This snake depends on wetlands for food and shelter and often lives in nearby upland areas during the summer months. Biologists believe over half of the massaugas population has disappeared in just the past three decades.
Habitat loss is one of the main reasons for the massasaugas’ decline. Draining wetlands for farms, roads, homes, and urban expansion has eliminated much of their habitat. Roads, towns, and farm fields also prevent them from moving between the wetland and upland habitats they need.
Several ATC construction projects have required us to take measures to protect these snakes. With the approval from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, we’ve installed miles of snake exclusion fencing to keep them out of construction areas, plywood snake cover boards to help them regulate their body temperature, and mat roads that provide a flat surface to help construction crews spot them. We also train our construction crews on the proper protocol for reporting snake sightings to our environmental monitors.