Rattlesnakes close playground in Hazleton

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HAZLETON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU)- A playground in Hazleton is off-limits to the public after neighbors say they saw rattlesnakes in the park.

The city hired a trapper to catch the poisonous snakes and the I-Team went along for the hunt. The trapper says rattlesnakes are nothing to mess around with, and advises nearby residents not to go into the park until he gives the all clear.

Yellow police tape can be seen strung around Altmiller Playground in the city’s northside. The park is commonly known as “The Rocks,” and it’s those rocks that could be home to timber rattlesnakes.

“I’m not surprised,” says trapper Ed Shemansky. “They like to come and sit on the rocks, and it is a perfect place here. They sleep in the rocks and they are hard to get.”

The city hired Shemansky, 81, who has been trapping animals and snakes for 60 years. He showed Eyewitness News one of his traps that consists of a glue board inside of a box.

“What happens is the snake is attached to it and it really holds, see my stick holds him,” says Shemansky.

He set up nine traps at the playground today. We checked one that came up clean.

Timber rattlesnakes are common to our region. They’re normally brown or yellow in color and may have black stripes. They range in size from three feet to as long as ten feet. Their venom is poisonous, but they normally shy away from human.

“They won’t attack you unless they are jammed in a corner,” says Shemansky. “They won’t attack, they more or less slither away from you.”

Janet Bugda lives near the Altmiller Playground. She hasn’t seen any snakes, but she heard about them. She’s concerned that some folks may not be aware of the snake concerns.

“I wish they would have posted signs,” says Bugda. “There is an awful lot of children that come from other areas. They wouldn’t know what it was either.”

The mayor says he is in the process of getting signs in the area. He’s confident the snake problem will be resolved soon, but he is not taking any chances. Until he’s sure about that, the playground will be closed.

Hazleton city officials say that over the years they’ve had issues with harmless snakes like garder or grass, but this is the first time they have had reports of rattlesnakes seen at a city playground.

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