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DEC Redoubles Warnings After Hiker’s Dog Bitten by Timber Rattler

DEC Redoubles Warnings After Hiker’s Dog Bitten by Timber Rattler June 12, 2024
DEC urges hikers to keep pets leashed in Timber Rattlesnake habitat.
DEC urges hikers to keep pets leashed in Timber Rattlesnake habitat.

A hiker whose unleashed dog was bitten by a Timber Rattlesnake on Lake George’s Tongue Mountain Range, and whose story was spread by social media, has led New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation to update its trailhead signage.

According to the new sign, a copy of which was made available to the Lake George Mirror, a warning to “Stay on trails and keep pets leashed for their safety” is given even greater emphasis than in the past.

According to Dr. William S. Brown, who has been studying the Timber Rattlesnakes of the Lake George forests for more than forty years, signs posted at trailheads for the past few years have alerted hikers to the fact that they are about to enter “Rattlesnake Habitat” and cautioning everyone to avoid “approaching or molesting a rattlesnake.” Pets, the signs state, should be kept leashed.

“Apparently, that message was not heeded,” said Brown.

Signs also inform hikers that “a Timber Rattlesnake bite is a serious medical emergency. If bitten, go to the nearest hospital without delay.

On Memorial Day weekend, on the trail near Fifth Peak and a half hour away from the Clay Meadow trailhead and parking lot, “my dog launched (sic) at the snake despite my commands and got bit,” a Reddit poster wrote on May 27.

A South Glens Falls veterinarian was able to treat the dog with an antivenom. He was transferred to an animal hospital and remained under the care of a vet – at a cost, potentially at least, of as much as $7,500.

According to Dr. Brown, the snake that was attacked by the dog appears to be one that he has tracked over the course of his long-term field study, which, among other things, has estimated the survival rates of Lake George’s Timber Rattlesnakes.

“We’ve learned that 65% of the snakes survive the first year,” says Brown. “After the first year, there’s a 90% survival rate. However, the reproductive rate is low.”

Habitat protection, as well as New York’s 1983 decision to declare the timber rattlesnake a protected species, making it illegal to capture or kill the snakes, amount to a conservation success story, said Brown.

Nevertheless, according to recent research, the Lake George population is still vulnerable, at risk from its low reproductive rate and climate change, he said.

Later this month, Brown and his team will conduct a training session for DEC Forest Rangers and Environmental Conservation Officers on methods of handling the timber rattlesnake safely, so as to help ensure the local population’s survival.

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