Living in harmony with wildlife

14 Jul 2009 | Sgt. T.D. Smith

An endangered five-foot snake made its home at the G-10 impact area aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune recently.

The Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, protected in North Carolina, is a rare find on Lejeune. However, contractors removing unexploded ordinance and decommissioned vehicles, used as targets, found the rattler nestled under an old Light Armored Vehicle. They left the reptile alone and contacted the Environmental Management Department.

“Bristol (the contract company) is good about these sorts of things,” said Les Pearson, a wildlife technician with EMD. “They are always environmentally friendly and call us if they need us to relocate an animal or have any questions.”

After EMD learned of the unusual occurrence, they contacted Jeff Hall, an amphibian and reptile conservation biologist with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, because the animal is endangered. EMD personnel, along with Hall, were escorted out to the bombing range to look for the snake and at first were unable to locate it.

“After we returned from afternoon chow, the snake discovered Jeff,” said Martin Koreneck, a wildlife biologist with EMD. “It’s camouflaged, so you could get close to it and not even know it’s there. He was crouching down and looking under the LAV. The snake was two feet away, and he was at eye level with it.”

Hall used special tools to remove the rattler from underneath the tracked vehicle. Even though the snake was not restrained by the tongs, it made no attempt to strike, because Diamondbacks are not aggressive and would rather try to escape than bite someone. Once he got it into a tote box, the reptile was moved to a part of the impact area not being worked on.

“We put it under another tank,” said Koreneck. “We didn’t want to stress it out, so we kept it in an environment as close as we could to the other one it had been in.”

Lejeune offers a hospitable environment to the more commonly seen Copperhead and Pygmy Rattlesnake. Like the Eastern Diamondback, which is the largest rattlesnake in the world, these snakes are not aggressive and will strike only if they absolutely have to.

North Carolina is home to 37 types of snakes, however only six are venomous. Only five types of snakes on base are poisonous, so you are more likely to encounter non-venomous snakes.

“If you are killing a snake, chances are you are killing a non-venomous snake,” said Koreneck. “You don’t have to kill a snake to be safe. It is best to just leave it alone or call EMD to have it relocated.”

If animal relocation is required, contact EMD at 451-5063 during normal working hours. For afterhours assistance, call dispatch at 451-3004 or 451-3005.