University of Massachusetts Amherst

Snake of Massachusetts

Protection of Snakes

All snakes receive some protection under the Fisheries and Wildlife Laws and Regulations of the state of Massachusetts. They are protected as important members of our native wildlife communities and as valuable natural resources. None of them may be taken from the wild for purposes of sale. To report any violations of our wildlife laws, call toll free: 1-800-632-8075.

Our rare snakes are stringently protected under the laws and regulations already mentioned, as well as under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act. Four species are involved: the worm snake, black rat snake, copperhead and timber rattlesnake. None of these may be collected, killed or held in possession except under special permit. (Although it is not presently listed under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act, the hognose snake is also specifically protected from killing, collection and possession.) The penalties for killing, collecting, possessing or even harassing these species - some of which have declined dramatically due to illegal collection - can range as high as a $5,000 fine and/or imprisonment for 180 days. In addition, anyone killing an endangered species may be required to make a restitution payment of $2,000 per animal. The Commonwealth is very serious about protecting the priceless natural heritage these animals represent to present and future generations. If you observe one of these rare snakes in Massachusetts, report it to the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, (508)792-7270.

Common species may be hunted, trapped or captured up to a possession limit of two. This "loophole" was deliberately left open so that budding biologists and snake enthusiasts could capture and study a few of the animals if they wished. However, many snakes do not adapt well to captivity. Curiosity can generally be satisfied through a few days of observation, after which the snake should be released in the same place it was found. It is illegal to transport and release ("translocate") any wild animal in Massachusetts. Although it is not illegal to kill common snakes, there is generally no reason for anyone to do so.

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