GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids is working to preserve Michigan’s sole species of venomous snake.
The eastern massasauga rattlesnake is an important part of the wetland ecosystem, but it is considered a federally threatened species in Michigan, according to a Wednesday release from the zoo. The snakes’ numbers have been dropping as they have faced habitat loss and fragmentation, as well as intentional killing, the zoo said.
Alongside Sarett Nature Center in Benton Harbor, John Ball Zoo announced Wednesday it has launched a program to monitor the massasauga, ultimately hoping to use what it learns to boost the species’ population.
Conservation workers have created a two-foot drift fence at the nature center that runs across the rattlesnakes’ habitat and works like a funnel, encouraging animals to crawl through a bucket that contains a camera. The setup will track the massasauga — a “less disruptive” technique than simply sending workers out on foot to collect data, the zoo said.
John Ball Zoo asked anyone who encounters a massasauga to leave it alone, rather than approaching.