Rochester ‘Rattlesnake’ Sighting Turns Out to Be Totally Harmless
ROCHESTER — What would you do if you saw a four-foot snake coiled in your garden shed? What if it started shaking the end of its tail like a rattlesnake?
Rochester Animal Control Officer Anne Estabrook said one town resident called police on Tuesday afternoon to report a rattlesnake in his shed — but it turned out to be a harmless snake playing mimic instead.
Rare and endangered timber rattlesnakes do live in very small areas of Massachusetts, according to Estabrook, but SouthCoast residents are far more likely to come across the Eastern milk snake, which was the culprit behind Tuesday's mix-up.
It's the latest in a string of snake sightings across the SouthCoast.
Fairhaven police and animal control dealt with another large Eastern milk snake behind a nail salon in the northern part of town at the end of May.
And one of the big snakes was also spotted hanging out on the Fairhaven bike path in the first week of June:
Eastern milk snakes can get up to four feet long and have distinctive brown or red "saddles" or spots of color along their backs — similar in appearance to rattlers.
Estabrook said they can also act like their venomous counterparts in self defense, coiling up and shaking the ends of their tails if they feel threatened.
But the non-venomous milk snakes do look a bit different; their heads blend smoothly into their bodies, rather than the distinctive wider head particular to pit vipers.
They also lack the "cat eyes" or elliptical pupils of the venomous vipers such as rattlers and copperheads.
"Even if it was a rattlesnake," Estabrook noted, "they are endangered — so you're not allowed to interfere with them."
Plus, she added, there are "hardly any of them left."
"It's a sad situation, because they're good to have around," she said.
Snakes — even potentially deadly ones — are great at eliminating vermin like mice and rats.
But in all likelihood, the 'danger noodle' in your back yard is just an Eastern milk snake.
Although they may try to bite if threatened, Estabrook said they won't do much harm.
"Just don't try to pick it up or try to do something stupid," she laughed.
Instead, she said, anyone who finds a large snake somewhere they don't want it should simply pick up a broom and gently sweep it back into nature.