Wayward timber rattlesnake

A snake handler shows one of the timber rattlesnakes that was caught in Sweden Township earlier this week, miles away from its normal slithering grounds.

Residents of “God’s Country” — Potter County, Pa., accept that timber rattlesnakes can be in their woods, particularly in the more southern area of the county.

But Chief Bryan Phelps of the Sweden Township Police Department, near Coudersport, recently found himself wrangling — or at least distracting — a timber rattlesnake earlier this week.

“This is like the third one in two years we’ve dealt with,” the chief told The Bradford Era. He posted a notice via the department’s Facebook page to residents in the area of U.S. Route 6 and Route 44. “Please watch and be careful today. Two timber rattlers were seen and one was captured and will be relocated.”

The second snake was hit by a vehicle and slithered off the road into high grass, where officers were unable to find it. They called in a snake expert to relocate the one they did find.

“A passerby saw it, and saw us where we were running traffic enforcement,” Phelps says.

The officers laughed it off, but still went to the area to make sure there was no danger.

“When we arrived, we were like, ‘Yeah, this is a rattlesnake,’” Phelps says. “It was going toward a local business and some lawns. ... I don’t like snakes, but we had to do something to keep this thing corralled. We distracted it until someone came” to take it into custody, so to speak.

The snake was annoyed, but didn’t take off toward homes and didn’t strike the officers.

Where did it come from?

“We are probably 8 or 9 miles north of where they would be normally,” Phelps said, “and about 20 miles east. That’s quite a way for a snake to migrate.”

He called the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission to report the snakes were outside of their normal zone. Officials there said it is breeding season for snakes, but said these trespassers probably fell off a log truck or a piece of construction equipment traveling on Route 6.

“You could have a hollow log, and the snakes could have been curled up inside it,” Phelps says, raising a rather terrifying possibility. “This is not an area normally indicative of snakes.”

Yet it isn’t the first time, either.

“They had one a year ago in Coudersport Borough by the American Legion,” Phelps says. “We had one hit on Route 6 about 6:30 a.m. (Wednesday) morning, about 1,000 feet from where this one was. We don’t know if it was the same one.”

He adds, “We’re warning residents: rattle the bushes before you walk through them.”