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Owlscrying

Texas snake roundup rattles ecologists

34 posts in this topic

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

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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.

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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".

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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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Horrible :\

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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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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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At least they milk the snakes for venom to make drugs to save the lives of those bitten. :unsure2:

Other than that I'm Switzerland.

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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. :(

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. :(

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Posted (edited)

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

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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.

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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. :)

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Nor was I picking at you or any one poster. :)

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

Still Switzerland. :D

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Posted (edited)

Nor was I picking at you or any one poster. :)

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

Still Switzerland. :D

But you know what happened to Switzerland? Do you?! They had a cheese named after them! A cheese with holes in it! Do you want to turn into holy cheese? Didn't think so.

This somewhat reminds me of hunters who say they are thinning out the deer populations, but what deer do you think they will kill? The fine healthy deer, or the sick one? In the end they are doing nothing for the environment, just using it's problems as an excuse to kill.

Edited by MR_MOE

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I know several people that have participated in the rattlesanake roundup, and it's mainly to milk them for antivenom serum.

For those of you that think rattlesnakes only attack when provoked, you are sadly mistaken. They kill numerous amounts of livestock and pets every year. They are one of the most dangerous creatures in the area. They are one of the main reasons I carry a gun when I go hiking, besides rednecks and perverts. :lol:

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Posted (edited)

I know several people that have participated in the rattlesanake roundup, and it's mainly to milk them for antivenom serum.

For those of you that think rattlesnakes only attack when provoked, you are sadly mistaken. They kill numerous amounts of livestock and pets every year. They are one of the most dangerous creatures in the area. They are one of the main reasons I carry a gun when I go hiking, besides rednecks and perverts. :lol:

No Michelle, it is not "mainly to milk them for antivenom serum". If it was, they would humanely release the snakes after the round up. Believe it or not, there are "civilized" rattlesnake roundups outside of Texas and the Third World, in which the rattlesnakes ARE released after they are milked. That may positively astound you, and anyone else of "Redneck stock" but its true.

The snakes are killed in Texas, for like you said, Texas is full of "rednecks and perverts" who like to kill things for the sheer joy of killing.

And yes, the snakes only attack if they are provoked. But it is true they bite pets and cattle, because these creatures accidentally provoke them, like dogs trying to kill them and cattle stepping on them. In real life rattlesnakes only bite creatures they eat or creatures that threaten them. They do not go out of their way to attack creatures for no reason, that is a redneck "thing".

But according to your logic we should kill everything that is dangerous.

So if that is the case, I have it on good authority that ignorant drunken redneck texans actually kill hundreds , even thousands of people every year in car accidents, whereas rattlesnakes kill about five.

So lets have a "Texas Redneck Roundup" and execution party to vastly improve America's gene pool.

Edited by draconic chronicler

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Are you aware that a lot of Native Americans AKA Indians are in charge of the hunts?

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I know several people that have participated in the rattlesanake roundup, and it's mainly to milk them for antivenom serum.

For those of you that think rattlesnakes only attack when provoked, you are sadly mistaken. They kill numerous amounts of livestock and pets every year. They are one of the most dangerous creatures in the area. They are one of the main reasons I carry a gun when I go hiking, besides rednecks and perverts. :lol:

When snakes bite not for food it is a defensive bite, this is not opinion it is fact. Venom is metabolically very expensive to produce. It is not in the sankes interest to waste venom as the energy to produce the protien is considerable. As for the danger to humans, rattlesnakes are not responsible for many deaths, there are on average 45000 snake bites in the US and Canada a year, about 6500 are envenomating bites, 15 of those on average are fatal of those 15 I'd estimate that about 90% of the deaths come from coral snakes which are considerably more venomous than rattlesnakes but less numerous. Europe has more snake bite fatalities than the US and Canada. Sorry, but it is pointless, brutality. Snakemilking can be done in other ways and a rattlesanke will delibratly get out you way because it percieves you as a threat. If you wish to confirm any of this go to your most local university that has a herpetologist and ask them.

Remeber you are more likely to be killed in a car, by a vending machine or by being shot than you are by a snake in the US. Remember to your chance of being shot dramatically increase if your armed with a gun ;)

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Posted (edited)

My chances are increased with the time I spend in the woods compared to most people. A gun and a dog have saved me numerous times from animals by firing into the air and the mere showing to men that chanced across a woman alone in the middle of nowhere.

Edit:My knowledge of rattlesnakes is not from a book, but from firsthand experience.

Edited by Michelle

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My chances are increased with the time I spend in the woods compared to most people. A gun and a dog have saved me numerous times from animals by firing into the air and the mere showing to men that chanced across a woman alone in the middle of nowhere.

Edit:My knowledge of rattlesnakes is not from a book, but from firsthand experience.

Who said mine was from a book, I know a couple of well respected herpetologists.

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My chances are increased with the time I spend in the woods compared to most people. A gun and a dog have saved me numerous times from animals by firing into the air and the mere showing to men that chanced across a woman alone in the middle of nowhere.

Well said.

If you never touch a knife you'll never get cut, but you'll also never eat a steak.

I like the taste of snake.

Every single snake at this shindig gets eaten by something. If it increases rodent populations I'm sure we would have heard about it. We haven't. How long has this been going on now? Eh, who cares? People who aren't allowed to shoot at rodents care. People who don't eat meat care. People who don't like guns for some reason seem to care. Most of all, people who don't even live in Texas seem to care. They care so much they stoop to insults. Should we talk about stupid inbred Marylanders who have raped the Chesapeake Bay, generation after generation, until the crab population is nearly gone?

Something that needs to be considered here is that not all of these snakes come from a ten square mile area. 99% of them come from all corners of this fine state. All corners is a huge freakin' area. 100,000 wouldn't even make a dent. I brought some from my back yard and I didn't even use gas. Just a stick and some balls. Free to grow; try it.

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It was assumed when you said I should go to a local university and speak to a herbetologist, Matt

I have practical, firsthand experience and try my best not disrupt or destoy any wildlife, but there are some situations when it is unavoidable.

It is sadly the same situations with deer, because they have no natural predators. They become prolific to the point they are starving to death and the herd has to be thinned.

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It was assumed when you said I should go to a local university and speak to a herbetologist, Matt

I have practical, firsthand experience and try my best not disrupt or destoy any wildlife, but there are some situations when it is unavoidable.

It is sadly the same situations with deer, because they have no natural predators. They become prolific to the point they are starving to death and the herd has to be thinned.

Yes but snakes have many natural predators and populations can become seriously damaged with little notice been taken outside of herpetology.

Deer is different, we were dense enough to wipe out enarly everthing that eats them.

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