Venomous rattlesnake ‘apprehended’ in Old Town Alexandria

Alexandria wildlife officials responded Sunday to the rather unusual sighting of a venomous rattlesnake slithering through an Old Town neighborhood.

Team members with the Alexandria Animal Welfare League, which runs an open-admission shelter and provides animal services for the Northern Virginia city, fielded a call on June 13 reporting a timber rattlesnake in the 400 block of Gibbon Street.

Animal service officers “apprehended” the snake at the advice of the Department of Wildlife Resources and transported it to a wildlife facility.

“While timber rattlesnakes are extremely rare in our region, it is not impossible for them to live in our climate, though Animal Services officers saw no sign of additional snakes or a nest,” AWLA said in a Twitter thread.

While Virginia law bars animal services from interfering with healthy wildlife that are not an imminent danger to humans, AWLA was given permission to take the rattlesnake elsewhere due to its venomous nature.

The timber rattlesnake is the only rattlesnake found in much of the Northeast U.S. including Virginia and Maryland, and was a symbol of resolve during the American Revolution, appearing on the Gadsden flag.

It is one of only three venomous snake species found in Virginia, the other being copperheads and water moccasins.

“Most snakes are harmless and, much like bats, provide a valuable service around your home in the way of pest control — snakes control rodents, bats control insects,” the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources says on its website. “In fact, the presence of snakes around your property or in your house may indicate a rodent problem.”

Though its overall population is stable, timber rattlesnakes are locally endangered in Virginia and threatened in several other mid-Atlantic and Northeast states by eradication efforts.

“Rattlesnakes will avoid contact with humans in most situations,” AWLA said. “It is not legal to own a rattlesnake in Alexandria without special licensing.”

Alejandro Alvarez

Alejandro Alvarez joined WTOP as a digital reporter and editor in June 2018. He is a writer and photojournalist focusing on politics, political activism and national affairs, with recent multimedia contributions to Reuters, MSNBC and PBS.

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