The plan is to raise juvenile snakes from Massachusetts in captivity by the Roger Williams Zoo in Providence, R.I. After about two years they grow to a size that deters predators, and the young snakes would then be released on the island. French and his team say that only between one and 10 of the timber rattlesnakes would be released in any given year.
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To ease worried minds, they reminded that "in the southern Appalachians, a healthy rattlesnake population may be as high as 150 individuals, however here in Massachusetts, our populations are generally much smaller."
Many locals, however, are not eagerly embracing the plan just yet. Peter Mallett, president of the Millers River Fishermen's Association, was asked by the Boston Globe, "What could go wrong?" He replied: "Well, they swim."
MassWildlife countered with this explanation: "While rattlesnakes are perfectly good swimmers, their survival depends on access to unusually deep hibernation sites, usually in a rock talus or boulder field below a ledge, or a deep fissure in bedrock. These special habitats are scarce on our landscape. Any snake that leaves the island whether by water or over the causeway will not be able to find a suitable hibernation site and if unable to return will die over the winter."