The Adirondacks’ largest species of venomous snake will be featured at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake this Sunday (and three more Sundays to come). The Wild Center’s resident herpetologist Frank Panaro will present a program about the timber rattlesnakes found in Adirondacks which are listed as threatened in New York and are only found in limited areas in the region.
This event brings up a little historical note from Flavius J. Cook’s 1858 Home sketches of Essex County: Ticonderoga:
Elisha Belden was a near neighbor of Mr. [Gideon] SHATTUCK’s [at the south end of Trout Brook Valley – presumably in present day Hague near the Ticonderoga town line], . .closely following him in time of settlement , tastes and occupations… Father Elisha was famous for hunting rattle-snakes, which he sent from the Rattle-snake’s den near Roger’s Rock, as curiosities to various parts. The stories of his captures of that reptile with a crotched stick, and of his particular power over them, are no less wonderful than well authenticated. In one of his trips to the den, on a Sabbath afternoon, he was badly bitten, but he said “it was because the varmints did not know him, as he was dressed up and had on white stockings – they thought he was Judge [Isaac] KELLOG.” At last going out one day alone, to fill a basket with this dangerous game, the old man did not return. When found he was sitting upon the rocks, leaning back, frightfully swollen and blackened with poison – dead. A snake, cut to pieces with his jack-knife, lay by his side, with fragments of flesh, thought to be a remedy for poison, which he had applied to the bite beneath his arm, to which, it is supposed, the chafing of his side against the cover of the basket, as he carried it had let out the heads of the reptiles. It was said, as before, that a change of clothes he had lately made put it beyond the wisdom of the rattlesnakes to recognize him, and hence his power over them was lost, but a better explanation was a half empty whiskey-bottle found near the spot whose contents had so fatally palsied the truly remarkable courage and skill of the old hunter.
Rattlesnakes were once a more common sight in the Adirondacks – Elisha BElden was a well-known entertainer with rattlers on the Lake George Steamships (he was on the John Jay when it sunk, for instance). Today we have few opportunities to see these amazing animals. Frank Panaro’s presentation will also include information concerning venomous snakes and venom in general in addition to a snake handling demonstration and a chance for you to ask questions. One of the Museum’s timber rattlesnakes will be in attendance for a close up view on the special live camera that lets you see the snake closer than you would ever see one in the wild.
The Timber Rattlesnakes of the Adirondacks program will also be held on Sunday, February 22nd, March 8th, and March 22nd at 1 pm.