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Canebrake Rattlesnake Conservation Plan

Current Species Status

The canebrake rattlesnake [(Crotalus horridus) Coastal Plain population] is listed as state endangered under Article 6, Title 29.1 of the Code of Virginia. There is no federal status for this species. Its range in Virginia is limited to the lower York-James peninsula (i.e. York County, cities of Newport News and Hampton), Isle of Wight County, and the cities of Chesapeake, Suffolk, and Virginia Beach. In 1993, it was estimated that 55% of the known range (32 of 58 sites) in Virginia had been lost (Mitchell, 1993). An additional 36% was expected to be lost over the next ten to twenty years from habitat loss due to commercial and residential development. Today, the largest, contiguous areas of habitat are primarily in the cities of Suffolk, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach. Other threats include small population size due to habitat fragmentation and human persecution.

Conservation Objective

Downlisting to threatened status. Because of the lack of available habitat for establishment of historical populations for full recovery, complete delisting is unlikely.

Conservation Criteria

To establish fully protected populations in five areas in southeastern Virginia. These are the North Landing River and its tributaries, the Northwest River and its tributaries, the Great Dismal Swamp and swamplands north of U.S. Rts. 460 and 58 (including the National Wildlife Refuge), the area between Elbow Road and the Albemarle-Chesapeake canal in Virginia Beach, and the population within the Naval Support Activity Northwest Annex (NSANA) and the adjacent Cavalier Wildlife Management Area to the west.

Actions Needed

  1. Protect populations and habitats in areas designated under the Conservation Strategy.
  2. Utilize existing state legislation and regulations and enhanced law enforcement to protect the species from take.
  3. Monitor the status of known populations and search for additional populations.
  4. Determine life history requirements of juveniles and adults.
  5. Determine the full range of threats and alleviate threats to the species existence.
  6. Develop and utilize education materials about this species, its habitat, and threats.
  7. Investigate translocation and artificial hibernation sites as a potential recovery tool.

Read the entire Canebrake Rattlesnake Conservation Plan (PDF, 2.3 MB)