BUCKHANNON — At least two sightings of rattlesnakes at the popular Riverwalk trail in Buckhannon have been reported over the past few days and the Division of Natural Resources urges residents to exercise caution, not panic.
The first sighting reportedly occurred close to the Little Free Library in the wooded area adjacent to the asphalt trail, according to Buck Edwards. The second was observed curled up on the railroad tracks that skirt the trail.
Edwards said he was very hesitant to share the information publicly because he did not want people to panic, but his main concern was for people and pets who may venture off the trail and inadvertently encounter a rattlesnake. “I want people to be aware and take precautions when using the Riverwalk. I would feel terrible if someone were bit and I had not shared this information,” Edwards expressed.
Local law enforcement and DNR officials were notified of the sightings, and they reportedly scouted the area for rattlesnakes Friday afternoon without success. According to DNR Wildlife Biologist Jim Fregonara, it is unusual for rattlesnakes to be in a populated area near the river, as they typically prefer more mountainous, rocky terrain. The regional reptile expert also explained that rattlesnakes only bite in self-defense when threatened and assured that people using the Riverwalk trail are not in imminent danger if they just leave the snakes alone should they have a confrontation.
Fregonara added that rattlesnakes can only strike out half of their body length, so if you do have a chance encounter, simply keep your distance and do not try to provoke the snake. Bites often occur when people try to kill rattlesnakes, according to the biologist. “Stay on the trail, be alert, and the rattle is their warning sign, so leave it alone,” Fregonara urged.