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State suspends plan for 'Rattlesnake Island' in Western Mass

The project was going to establish a colony of endangered rattlesnakes on an island in the Quabbin Reservoir.
The Quabbin Reservoir in Massachusetts.
The Quabbin Reservoir in Massachusetts. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

‘Rattlesnake Island’ will not become a reality in Western Massachusetts’  Quabbin Reservoir, state officials announced Wednesday.

The controversial project planned to place endangered timber rattlesnakes on an island in the Quabbin Reservoir to help repopulate the species.

The Fisheries and Wildlife Board voted to indefinitely suspend the project “after considering recommendations and comments by the Rattlesnake Working Group and members of the public,” said Peter Lorenz, spokesman for the Office of Energy and Environmental affairs, in a statement.

The office oversees the Department of Fish & Game, which Lorenz said “remains committed to the protection and conservation of all endangered and at-risk species throughout the commonwealth." He added that the agency "looks forward to continuing to work with the public and stakeholders to utilize the best science available in an effort to strike a balance between wildlife protection and public access.”

Mount Zion, the island that was to be inhabited by the venomous rattlesnakes, is off-limits to the public, but that didn’t quell concerns from locals that the rattlesnakes would find their way to other areas.

Western Massachusetts state Sen. Anne Gobi, whose district includes the reservoir, supported the decision to cancel the project.

“Preservation of endangered species is a major priority of mine and members of the Fisheries and Wildlife Board,” Gobi said in a statement. “However, the Quabbin Reservoir is a vital resource, with a history of sacrifice. The decision to convene the Rattlesnake Working Group was an important measure to hear from area residents and to determine if this plan was the right one. In the end, it wasn’t.”

State Sen. Eric Lesser, also of Western Massachusetts, and whose district borders the reservoir, agreed with the decision as well.

“From the beginning, residents in the Quabbin region did not feel like their concerns about this project were listened to,” he said in a statement. “I’m glad that after a series of listening sessions in the various communities affected, a decision was made to suspend this plan, and to focus on protecting the rattlesnakes in locations where they already exist.”

The snakes that were set to take over the island are currently being raised at Roger Williams Zoo and will now be released back into the existing populations within the commonwealth that they came from.

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