Working Together to Protect Michigan’s Species

DNR moose survey results estimate a population increase (Upper Peninsula DNR News): Michigan Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologists estimate the number of moose in the western Upper Peninsula core population area at 378 animals, up from 285 in 2015.

Help continue to protect moose throughout Northern Michigan by participating in MNA’s Moose on the Loose Family Fun Run & 5K on Saturday, August 26 at Presque Isle Park in Marquette!

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Studying Michigan’s massasaugas, the state’s poisonous rattlers (Showcasing the DNR bulletin): Michigan has become an important laboratory for the study and preservation of the eastern massasauga rattlesnake, the only venomous viper that inhabits the state. Massasauga rattlesnakes were listed as a federally threatened species under the Endangered Species Act in 2016 and are thereby protected animals.

Help protect habitat for the threatened massasauga at the Rattlesnake Family Fun Run & 5K on September 17 on the Paint Creek Trail in Rochester!

Massasauga rattlesnakes are found in wetland areas in Michigan.

Climb aboard as the DNR surveys lake sturgeon (Showcasing the DNR bulletin): The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has been monitoring sturgeon populations on the St. Clair River for the last 25 years with a technique that is as old as fishing itself. DNR crews use set lines that are anchored to the bottom of the river channel and sport numerous hooks to catch and tag the mysterious prehistoric fish.

Learn more about lake sturgeon on October 8 at the Sturgeon Sprint Family Fun Run & 5K on Belle Isle in Detroit!

Michigan Department of Natural Resources fisheries assistant Jason Pauken Jason Pauken shows off a St. Clair River sturgeon.

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Species Spotlight: Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake

By Michelle Ferrell, MNA Intern

Inspiring both our fear and fascination, snakes have long been subjects of lore and objects of persecution, and more recently, household adornments for reptile enthusiasts. Less appreciated about these legless creatures is the ecological role they play as middle-order predators. They serve as a food source for other wildlife, but also help to control small mammal populations – chiefly that of rodents. As such they act as indicator species, which from an ecological standpoint means their conservation also entails the conservation of entire natural systems which support an array of plants and animals.

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The threatened Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake. Photo: Ryan Bolton.

The Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake, sometimes called the Michigan Rattlesnake, Prairie Massasauga, or Swamp Massasauga, is one of several Michigan-native snakes, but is Michigan’s only venomous snake. Still, it poses little to no threat to humans. This timid species is extremely reclusive and avoids humans as best it can, preferring to remain camouflaged or leave the area when disturbed. Despite a somewhat fearsome reputation, rattlesnakes strike in defense only as a last resort.

Grown adults are of modest proportions, reaching only 2-3 feet in length. They are characterized by a light grey or tan base color with rows of large, dark brown circles and the hallmark triangular or heart-shaped head. The young are paler, but no less brightly-patterned. It ranges throughout the entire lower peninsula in swamps and wet lowlands. Occasionally it can also be found sunning in drier uplands.

Like many others of its kind, this once-common species has been driven to decline largely due to the loss of wetland habitats from urban and agricultural development, needless persecution and snake fungal disease, and is now classified as threatened or endangered in every state across its American range spanning from Pennsylvania to Missouri and Minnesota. MNA is a key stakeholder in the conservation of the Eastern Massasauga and currently protects several Eastern Massasauga habitats in Oakland, Berrien, Van Buren and Mackinac counties.

Education and awareness can play an important role in the future of this species. If trekking through areas of possible rattlesnake habitation, be sure to wear thick shoes and pants or socks that reach past your ankles. Though sightings are rare, if you see a snake which you suspect to be a rattler, keep a respectful distance and restrain pets to prevent them from agitating the snake. Much has yet to be learned about these reclusive creatures, but perhaps with a trained eye, visitors to MNA sanctuaries can observe them in their natural element.

5K to Benefit Rare Species

Rattlesnake Run at the Paint Creek Trail in Oakland County! Photo: Yoshi Naruse.

MNA also educates the public about the species at the Annual Rattlesnake Family Fun Run & 5K in Rochester. This year the race will take place on Sunday, September 17 along the Paint Creek Trail. The 5K will promote efforts to preserve habitat for the Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake.