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STAFF PHOTO/ROBERT L. BAKER At the 2019 Rattlesnake Roundup, Noxen Fire Chief Lew Hackling explains about the habitat of area snakes.

Early last week, the Noxen Volunteer Fire Company announced on their Facebook page that they would be postponing the annual Rattlesnake Roundup, held in Noxen in June.

Shortly thereafter, the three other rattlesnake hunts also postponed their annual events.

While the county was given the go ahead to enter the yellow phase of COVID-19 relief by Gov. Tom Wolf for this Friday, the Noxen group decided in the interest of safety of their guests, participants, community, and members of the fire company that it was best to postpone until a later date.

“We intend to hold the Roundup in July this year,” said Fire Chief Lew Hackling. “This will have no effect on the snakes. Any organized hunt has the opportunity to run through the end of July.”

He explained that the annual Noxen event, that runs alongside live entertainment, vendors, and amusement rides, was always held on the third weekend in June, and became known throughout the circuit.

“It was a schedule, unofficially, those in the know, those that made the rounds of the hunts, knew that was our weekend,” he said.

According to the Keystone Reptile Club, “All hunt sponsors, including Noxen, Sinnemahoning, Morris, and Cross Fork, have the option to move to July if the state of Pennsylvania opens up social gatherings.”

Last month Chief Hackling had explained the hunts have a specific timeframe, as not to interfere with the reproduction cycles of the snakes.

Timber rattlesnakes mate most actively between July and August. Males engage in dominance wrestling matches for the right to mate with receptive females. The females are capable of storing the sperm for many months, and, thus, typically delay fertilization of their ova until June of the following year. A litter may have anywhere from five to 14 snakelings, with eight being the average. Babies are born with a single tiny rattle segment (called a button) on their tail.

Hackling added, “We will survive, but the vendors are just upside down right now. The bands, the rides, they are all out of work indefinitely. We really feel for them.”

The chief went on to explain how the fire company has been in contact with vendors originally scheduled to come to the Noxen Fairgrounds for next month’s event. He said that some have other obligations, but since they are all getting daily cancellations of events, there is a large amount of rebookings.

“We need to be in the green phase of the governor’s plan to hold the roundup,” explained Hackling. “But, there is no set amount of time until we move into the green phase. No one knows what the criteria is. No one in the state can confirm our time lines, or what we can do (to get to green). We want to be safe, but it would be nice to know if we are just postponed, or if we will have to cancel.”

“We can just plan and prepare and hope, but until this coronavirus is behind us, we won’t be back to a normal life anytime soon,” said Hackling.

He added, “We have spent a lot of money at my construction job to be in compliance. There is more misinformation out there than correct information- are masks helpful or harmful? We just don’t know. Only time will tell.”

For continued updates, please check the NVFC Rattlesnake Roundup Facebook page, or the Keystone Reptile Club page.