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How Rattlesnakes are Helping to Fight Lyme Disease

BIG FLATS, N.Y. (18 NEWS) - The Timber Rattlesnake...There's hundreds of them here in the Twin Tiers and thanks to the warmer weather, we've been seeing more of them. Despite recent sightings the species is actually decreasing in numbers. The Timber Rattlesnake is listed as threatened in New York State meaning Rattlesnakes could face extinction in the future. That may not sound so bad to some, but it turns out we need them more than you think. 

"It's a pretty fragile population but we need the snakes especially with the problem with text that we're having," Polly Smith-Blackwell, a local certified handler said. 

New York has some of the highest rates of Lyme Disease in the country. The disease can have severe side effects including neurological and cardiac disorders and is caused by bacteria that's transmitted by ticks. 

"Their diet consists of chipmunks and mice both of which are carriers of the ticks so the more mice and chipmunks they eat the less ticks you have," Smith-Blackwell said. 

According to the University of Maryland, one Timber Rattlesnake can consume nearly 5 thousand ticks a summer. Polly says the den in Big Flats is home to about 100 snakes. If you do the math, that's about 500 thousand ticks that aren't crawling on you and me. So they next time you're thinking about killing one of these snakes, think twice! You could also be facing hundreds of dollars in fines from the Department of Environmental Conservation. 

For more information click here. 

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