While most in the southeastern United States might prefer to avoid an eastern diamondback rattlesnake, some herpetologists are becoming afraid of something else: not being able to find them. The world's largest rattlesnake seems to be disappearing from its natural habitat.
The US Department of Fish and Wildlife has announced a year-long study to determine if the rattlers' numbers have declined to endangered-level status. While it is not known exactly what has caused their decline, the likely suspect is human development into their habitat. The eastern U.S. long-leaf pine forests they prefer have shrunk from pre-colonial levels of 90 million acres to now just over 3 million. We may fear these venomous snakes, but they could wind up being the ones in need of protection.
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