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Texas snake roundup rattles ecologists


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#1    Owlscrying

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Posted 11 March 2007 - 05:28 AM

Mar. 10

SWEET-WATER, Texas (Reuters) - When Chris Soles says he works in a snake pit, he's not kidding.

The lanky Texan stands among hundreds of slithering rattlesnakes and prods them with special tongs that allow him to snatch the reptiles at arm's length.

"I'm sorting out the dead snakes," said Soles, wearing protective pants as he occasionally picks up a lifeless rattler from the bundle and throws it into a bucket outside the pit.

The snakes are caught during the annual rattlesnake roundup in Sweet-water, Texas, which this town 200 miles west of Dallas bills as the biggest in the world.

The three-day event, which ends on Sunday, includes a rattlesnake-eating contest.

The roundup rattles ecologists but locals see it as a boon for drawing up to 30,000 visitors. Farmers say it helps control a pest that occasionally maims or kills livestock.

Nothing is wasted, the organizers say, with the skins made into belts, the meat sold as a delicacy and the venom "milked" for sale to pharmaceutical companies.

But scientists raise ecological and ethical concerns.

"There's no glory in rattlesnake hunting," said Lee Fitzgerald, an associate professor and curator of amphibians and reptiles at Texas A&M University.

Hunters scour the arid landscape for snake dens, into which they pump gas fumes to drive them out. Then they snatch them with the tongs.

Hunters say the fumes have minimal ecological impact but many scientists disagree.

"It's an unethical way to hunt and it harms other animals such as scorpions and rodents," said Fitzgerald.

The specific species targeted around Sweet-water is the western diamondback rattlesnake.

Data provided by the organizers shows the amount harvested each year, as measured in pounds, has fluctuated wildly, sometimes in response to the price of snake meat.

Last year, the roundup yielded more than 13,000 pounds (5,910 kg) of meat, probably representing about 7,000 snakes. The record set in 1982 was almost 18,000 pounds (8,180 kg).

Both totals far exceed those of early roundups almost five decades ago, suggesting the hunt may be sustainable but that the long-term consequences are unknown.

The dim view of snake roundups from the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists was spelled out clearly in a position paper last year.

"The biological ramifications of decades of rattlesnake roundups are difficult to assess, but they have great potential to affect snake populations negatively, and it is difficult to predict when rattlesnake harvests will push local populations beyond the point of recovery," it said.

The society also raised ethical issues.

"Snakes are handled roughly and are decapitated and butchered in large numbers in front of an audience, including small children, as entertainment. It is hard to imagine subjecting any other vertebrate animal to such thoughtless and inhumane treatment."

The roundup is vintage Texas, from its claim to being the biggest of its kind to its unabashed celebration of the hunt.

In Swee****er, ecological or moral objections are brushed aside as overblown or just plain crazy.

"We don't hardly put a dent into the population," said one cowboy as he prepared to tuck into some freshly fried snake. "More are killed on the road every year."


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#2    AtlantisRises

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 09:51 AM

mhm.

First question I guess is what is the local population like.

Also the fact is that when you start killing snakes you make a LOT of major problems, Rodent populations increase, When Rodent populations increase so does rodent faeces which results in higher insect counts.

Snakes are an extremely important part of most food chains and to take even a small portion out is not a clever thing to do.

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#3    frogfish

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 12:54 PM

To kill about 7000 snakes in 3 days is horrible. This is not hunting, it's slaughter.

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#4    Myles

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Posted 14 March 2007 - 01:15 PM

That's not even a big dent in the rattlesnake population.  Nothing wrong with it.  If the rodent population increases, then they will have to stop.  But to stop because of something that might happen is silly.  Live and learn.  They are poisonous snakes.


#5    draconic chronicler

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Posted 14 March 2007 - 10:49 PM

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That's not even a big dent in the rattlesnake population.  Nothing wrong with it.  If the rodent population increases, then they will have to stop.  But to stop because of something that might happen is silly.  Live and learn.  They are poisonous snakes.


Let's have an "Ignorant Texan Redneck Round-Up".  Humanity's gene pool will thank us for it.

These are the same jackasses you read about who drown their children in bathtubs to "save" them from "demons".  White Trash with a capital "W".


#6    Mattshark

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Posted 14 March 2007 - 11:41 PM

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That's not even a big dent in the rattlesnake population.  Nothing wrong with it.  If the rodent population increases, then they will have to stop.  But to stop because of something that might happen is silly.  Live and learn.  They are poisonous snakes.
They are venomous yes, but they are not overtly aggressive, people nearly always get bitten because they are stupid enough to pick up the snake (and yes this is the main cause of bites). There are also ecological reason, you do not know the damage it is having to the local populations.

It is also pointless actsd of brutality, killing for food and population control are one thing, killing in this case is however pointless and idiotic.

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#7    Kalien

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Posted 15 March 2007 - 10:55 PM

Horrible :\


#8    Gatofeo

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Posted 18 March 2007 - 09:07 PM

I initially found this very distasteful. I still do.
But then I got to thinking, "Sheesh ... they manage to round up 7,000 or more snakes EACH YEAR, and the populations STILL don't appear to go down?"
Think about it. That's a LOT of poisonous snakes in a comparatively small area. I mean, I'd hate to let kids or pets ouside, in an area like that.
Thousands of poisonous snakes killed each year, without any apparent effect on the population?
Wow.
But I still despise the method and the glorification of the killing. If something is a pest, and dangerous to boot, kill it by all means. I mean, we kill mosquitoes and microbes by the BILLIONS each year, in the name of public health.
I live in the remote Utah desert. I don't often see a rattlesnake in the wild, mostly because they tend to inhabit rocky areas that are difficult for humans to navigate.
Oh sure, some of you would hike along these areas --- but factor in 100 degree heat (38 Celsius), low humidity, 5,000 feet elevation and the inability to get help quickly if anything does go wrong (many cellphones don't work out here) and you take your life in your hands entering such areas.
I don't bother the snakes and they don't bother me, because I have a healthy respect for them.
Besides, I find them fascinating and beneficial. They eat the white-footed deer mouse, which carries the potentially deadly Hantavirus.

But sheesh ... each and every year they can get that many snakes and see no population dent? Mebbe they NEED to thin the herd once a year as a matter of public health?

By the way, what is a gathering of snakes? Anyone know? I know it's a "pod" of whales and a "murder" of crows but does a group of snakes have a name? Just curious.

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#9    frogfish

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Posted 20 March 2007 - 09:56 PM

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By the way, what is a gathering of snakes? Anyone know? I know it's a "pod" of whales and a "murder" of crows but does a group of snakes have a name? Just curious.

No, because snakes NORMALLy do not congregate in groups...But during garter snake breeding, the masses of snakes are called "snake balls"

I highly doubt there is no dent in the population. 7000 snakes from an area that small is way too much of a harvest.

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#10    girty1600

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Posted 21 March 2007 - 02:47 AM

At least they milk the snakes for venom to make drugs to save the lives of those bitten. unsure.gif

Other than that I'm Switzerland.


#11    m. Moe

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Posted 21 March 2007 - 02:53 AM

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To kill about 7000 snakes in 3 days is horrible. This is not hunting, it's slaughter.

I know, I am kind of sad from reading this. sad.gif

Pfft. It's just an excuse for a bunch of rednecks to go out and kill something. But do you know what I find is amusing? PETA got up Canada's case for the seal hunting thing, and yet they do nothing for this? And where is Greenpiece? Both hippy group only care about the "cute and cuddly" animals, and that I find more sickining than the roundup itself.

The sad part is they are endangered here. sad.gif

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#12    organgrinder

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Posted 21 March 2007 - 03:00 AM

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That's not even a big dent in the rattlesnake population.  Nothing wrong with it.  If the rodent population increases, then they will have to stop.  But to stop because of something that might happen is silly.  Live and learn.  They are poisonous snakes.


This is quite possibly the most ignorant thing you could have said, but of course a lot of people have it drilled into their heads somehow that snakes are disgusting and useless and that there's no reason not to kill them. Meh. Some people mindlessly eat up everything they're told and never learn. Hopefully some will though.
And it's beyond stupid to say that if the rodent population increases they'll stop killing snakes. Haha. How in the world do you figure that? When they realize there's more rats they'll just say, "Man. There's a lot of rats around here. Oh well. Off to kill some snakes cuz the bible says they's evil." Have people who are trying to eradicate a species for no reason other than they're idiots ever stopped when the damage to the ecosystem starts to become apparent? No...and they never will.

Edited by organgrinder, 21 March 2007 - 03:04 AM.


#13    girty1600

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Posted 21 March 2007 - 03:30 AM

We should back up a bit on the redneck stereotyping of Texans in my opinion.  Its not like these toothless, uneducated hilljacks hold a monopoly on snake-wacking day nor did they come up with it on their own.

Believe me the progressive metro areas of Texas, especially in the cities, have plenty of folks ready to talk you into a vegan life-style and skipping work for two days to stage a protest of any sort, it just depends on the flavor of the week  like everywhere else.

Another noteworthy fact for y'all; just because the Bush familly moved to Texas doesn't mean they are Texas.  

So lets keep the name-calling and profiling to a 1940's German level.




This is Switzerland saying don't put people in a box unless you are confident there's no way for them break free and find the bigot that put them there in the first place.


#14    m. Moe

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Posted 21 March 2007 - 03:35 AM

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We should back up a bit on the redneck stereotyping of Texans in my opinion.  Its not like these toothless, uneducated hilljacks hold a monopoly on snake-wacking day nor did they come up with it on their own.

Believe me the progressive metro areas of Texas, especially in the cities, have plenty of folks ready to talk you into a vegan life-style and skipping work for two days to stage a protest of any sort, it just depends on the flavor of the week  like everywhere else.

Another noteworthy fact for y'all; just because the Bush familly moved to Texas doesn't mean they are Texas.  

So lets keep the name-calling and profiling to a 1940's German level.
This is Switzerland saying don't put people in a box unless you are confident there's no way for them break free and find the bigot that put them there in the first place.

I am not saying that all Texans are rednecks, but the ones out there killing thousands of snakes purely for fun are. original.gif

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#15    girty1600

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Posted 21 March 2007 - 03:38 AM

Nor was I picking at you or any one poster.  original.gif

Just the overall feel of hatred and intolerance for, in this particular case, Texans.

Still Switzerland. grin2.gif






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