April 23, 2017

Editorial: Quabbin snakes’ rejection rattles faith in environmental reasoning

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Flickr / Brian Gratwicke

Timber rattlesnakes should be more worried about us than we are of them -- so why is it the other way around?

In cities around the world yesterday, people marched and held rallies in favor of science.

That’s a great show of support for reason, facts, discovery, and looking the world squarely in the eye.

Locally, though, science seems to have lost out to fear in the matter of Quabbin Reservoir’s would-be new residents, the timber rattlesnake.

The endangered [in Massachusetts and six other states] species won’t be slithering around a secluded Quabbin location in search of chipmunks anytime soon. The state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife last week shelved its idea to introduce the snakes — which are venomous but rarely harmful to humans — to Mount Zion Island in the reservoir, after more than a year of trying to persuade Quabbin-area communities of the proposal’s safety and ecological value.

Public backlash won, despite wildlife officials’ vetting of the plan, the independent Rattlesnake Review Working Group the state formed, and the information — intended to fight fears and provide reassurances — experts patiently provided communities close to the Quabbin.

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