Here are a few tips to make your visit to the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor more enjoyable for you and its residents.
The valley is a very safe place to explore, most of the hazards are the same as in most natural areas of the eastern United States. For people not familiar with the outdoors in New England I'll highlight some of the natural hazards so you can avoid them and have a great time enjoying my favorite part of the world.
Biting and Stinging Insects
The final insect hazard is the same as almost everywhere in the world, bees, wasps and hornets. The most common problem species in the valley are yellow jackets, bald face hornets and paper wasps. While my experience is that these three are the ones that people get stung by most often, many other species can and will sting when provoked. Here is some information on avoiding and treating stings from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.
This is the most common plant hazard in the BRVNHC, a bad case of poison ivy rash can wreck a vacation in the valley. The best thing to do is learn to recognize the plant and don't touch it. If you do touch it wash the affected area thoroughly as soon as possible and don't spread it around your body. Identification of poison ivy is not easy by leaf shape or color as these vary significantly among individuals and time of year. With the exception of the little potted plant, all the leaves in the picture below are poison ivy. The important telltale characteristic is the three leaf pattern. Leaflets three, let it be.
As its name suggests, poison ivy is a vine that you will find climbing walls, trees and on the ground. It is an invasive native plant and once it takes hold in an area it is difficult to eradicate. For more information see the University of Connecticut Integrated Pest Management Program's poison ivy page.
These hazards are real but are so rare I have never had a problem with them. Even though they are rare they are worth knowing about especially if you are going off the beaten path in the valley.
I have known of the plant and how to spot it since cub scouts in the 60's, Berries white poisonous sight. I've never even seen this plant but considering the amount of wetlands in the valley it must be around somewhere. Its effect on humans is the same as poison ivy so unless you are allergic it shouldn't be too much of a problem. Learn more at The Poison Sumac Page.
The only place in the valley with this non-native invasive plant is Sutton and the affected area is actively controlled by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources. This makes it very unlikely that you'll encounter this nasty plant. See the Massachusetts Introduced Pests Outreach Project pages for more information and list of identified and controlled locations.
The copperhead and the timber rattlesnake are the only two venomous snakes in Massachusetts and neither is found in Rhode Island. They are both protected as endangered species and only found in a few areas of the state that aren't publicized. It is unlikely that either of these two species even live in the Blackstone Valley but it is possible so it is worth a few minutes of your time to learn how to identify them. Personally I would love to see these beautiful creatures in the wild some day but it will likely never happen. Heck I'll be happy just to see some snake species besides the common garter and northern water snakes.
There are only three mammals in the BRVNHC that have even a remote possibility of being a hazard under normal circumstances, black bears, coyotes and bobcats. The only way you could ever have an issue with them is if you were doing something really odd or stupid (feeding wild animals qualifies as stupid). All three are rare in the valley and shy away from human contact which is why they are normally not a problem.
There was a bad incident somewhere in Massachusetts in 2009 (not in the valley) when a man was attacked by a bobcat. However the circumstances where very special, the man was turkey hunting and was crouched down in some bushes for cover. He was using a turkey call to lure in birds when a bobcat hearing the sound from the bushes pounced on him. He jumped up from his hiding place and the bobcat moved away, the man wasn't badly hurt and he reported that the bobcat seemed as surprised as he was. As a precaution the man was given treatment for rabies which brings up the only hazard from mammals of the valley that requires vigilance.
Rabid animals become violently insane and should be avoided and reported to local animal control. Many mammals can get rabies and all are dangerous when infected. Raccoons, skunks, squirrels, bobcats, coyotes and domestic dogs seem to be the biggest problems for rabies related attacks. If any mammal is acting aggressive and fearless of humans get away from the critter and call animal control to check it out. While modern rabies treatments aren't as bad as they used to be it is still something you want to avoid.
Last Updated 05/08/2011