Rattlesnake Safety on the Black Forest Trail

Authors: Alexandra Lister*, Pennsylvania State University
Topics: Biogeography, Geographic Information Science and Systems, Planning Geography
Keywords: timber rattlesnake, rattlesnake safety, Black Forest Trail, network analysis, recreation
Session Type: Virtual Poster
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 52
Presentation Link: Open in New Window
Presentation File: Download



The coronavirus pandemic has restricted traditional forms of recreation. Due to social distancing requirements, mask-wearing, and quarantine, a handful of the population has begun to participate in various forms of outdoor recreation, such as hiking, camping, and backpacking. Much of this population have little experience with these activities, and thus have a higher chance of encountering dangerous situations. This project was conducted to better understand the dangers of hiking along the Black Forest Trail, a 46-mile backpacking trail that loops through the Tiadaghton State Forest in North-Central Pennsylvania. Specifically, the project focuses on mapping the probability of encountering a Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) at any given location along the trail using variables such as elevation, slope, slope direction (aspect), landcover, and canopy cover. The map generated for this portion of the project displays hotspot locations where the probability of encountering a rattlesnake is high. An additional network analysis (ESRI Network Analysis) was conducted to understand the trail’s proximity to local hospitals. With this information, another map that combines the findings from the previous map and the results of the network analysis was created to display the overall risk of hiking the Black Forest Trail using probability of encountering rattlesnakes and proximity to hospitals as variables. This research helps contribute to various state park safety initiatives that warn hikers of the dangers of hiking in wild areas.

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