Plans to establish a colony of venomous timber rattlesnakes on a Massachusetts island have triggered concerns among residents who fear the reptiles could escape on to the mainland.
The proposal would see the endangered snakes established on Mount Zion, a 1,400 acre island in the Quabbin Reservoir around 65 miles from Boston.
But people have expressed concerns that rattlesnakes can swim and the island is connected to the mainland by two narrow causeways.
Tom French, of the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, said he had received several emails and phone calls from people worried that the snakes could escape.
He said: “People are afraid that we”re going to put snakes in a place of public use and that they are going to breed like rabbits and spread over the countryside and kill everybody.”
There are only around 200 timber rattlesnakes left in five areas of Massachusetts.
Loss of habitat and human-caused deaths could mean they disappear altogether, Mr French said.
A handful of the snakes will be raised at Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, Rhode Island, and then placed on the island when they are mature enough to survive in the wild.
The project has been endorsed by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker.
Rattlesnakes are timid and only strike when provoked. There have been no documented rattlesnake bite deaths in Massachusetts since colonial times, according to Mr French.