In 2007, a city construction inspector noticed several timber rattlesnakes basking on and around a pile of concrete and rubble on a project site scheduled to be paved over and developed the following spring. When the site was investigated, it was found to be home to a den of dozens of rattlesnakes. With the (at the time) recent increase in rattlesnake sightings in residential neighbourhoods, local biologists were concerned at the requests for their advice on how best to destroy the dens and kill the rattlesnakes, despite the timber rattlesnake’s protected status. Instead of going ahead with the extermination, researchers reached an agreement to delay the development by two months, and a relocation project began.
In what was likely the first relocation of its kind, herpetologists from Rockhurst University, the Kansas Biological Survey, and venomous snake specialists volunteering to join the project from out of state relocated the entire den and released the snakes together. The release site provided suitable habitat, had been surveyed to confirm the presence of enough prey to support the snakes, was publicly owned to be sure there would be no future development, and was unoccupied by humans or a pre-existing rattlesnake population so they could safely re-establish their community out of harm’s way. The previously established method had been to move snakes individually to separate territories roughly two kilometres from their point of origin (this was considered a long-distance translocation), so this study was an important test of whether community structure or individual home territories were more important to the timber rattlesnake. A total of 35 snakes were implanted with radio transmitters so the researchers could follow their movements for 4 years. While two tracked snakes died in the first year, the population survived the move to their new home, and continued to use a communal den.
There is only one record of a timber rattlesnake bite in Lenexa since the relocation project was completed: a teenager was bitten on a bare foot in 2012, but made a full recovery.