Research project tracks rattlesnakes in Jefferson County

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. -- It's not a sound you want to hear in the great outdoors. But it's a sound veterinarian Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald wants to hear.

That highly distinctive sound from the Crotalus viridis, aka, the rattlesnake.

"We are putting transmitters in 20 of the snakes out here.  Ten males and 10 females so we can follow them," Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald has teamed up with Jefferson County Open Space on a two-year study of the prairie rattlesnake.

"From the study, we will know the range of these snakes. We will know by catching them up again and seeing their growth and how much weight they gained. I think we can tell a lot about the reproduction of the snakes in this area," Fitzgerald siad.

Information learned is what open space ranger Mary Ann Bonnell would like to have.

"We are concerned about visitor safety. So if there is anything we can do to minimize the chance that our visitors are going to have a negative interaction with a rattlesnake, we want to be in that research," she said.

Halfway through the study, information is coming in.

"We've learned a lot so far about these guys," Fitzgerald said. "They move much farther, dramatically much farther than we ever thought,."

Rattlesnakes are not to be feared, Fitzgerald said, just respected.