Are There Rattlesnakes in Southern Minnesota?
There's an upcoming presentation at River Bend Nature Center in Faribault this week that got me wondering whether there really are poisonous snakes in Southern Minnesota. Apparently there are but they might not be easy to find. A River Bend naturalist will discuss the timber rattlesnake of Rice County on Thursday, July 20, at 6PM. The program will center on its struggle for survival and there will even be a nonvenomous cousin of the timber rattler there. Admission is free for River Bend members and $2 for nonmembers.
I did some checking around and it appears there are two types of poisonous snakes in Southern Minnesota. In addition to the Timber Rattler, which measure anywhere from 31-48 inches, there is also the Eastern Massagauga, which is 18-30 inches long.
Years ago it was thought that the rattlesnake ranged as far west in Minnesota as Blue Earth County, which is home to Mankato. The Minnesota DNR reports a bounty was offered starting in 1909, which greatly reduced the population of the rattler in our area. The southeastern portion of the state and near the Mississippi there are sometimes reports of the Timber Rattler. In 2011 a hiker was bitten by a rattler near Caledonia.
I remember being down near the falls in Little Falls, Wisconsin, which is located in Polk County. About 30 to 40 years ago I distinctly heard what I believed to be a rattle in the rocky cliffs above the falls. I didn't go any closer to investigate.
Reports of death by rattlesnake bites in Minnesota vary due to the length of time since an incident occurred along with lack of accuracy in reporting back in the olden days. It seems that somewhere around a dozen deaths have occurred in Minnesota with some of the purported Timber Rattler bites actually being stricken by perhaps the Eastern Massasauga.
Any way you look at it, it seems quite unlikely that a person in Southern Minnesota needs to worry about being bitten by a rattler as they prefer to be left alone and are quite often in rocky bluffs that face the south. You'd in all likelihood have to do something that would upset a rattler before it would try to attack you.
If you'd like to learn more, take in that presentation on Thursday at River Bend Nature Center.