This article will soon be available in Spanish
At the 58th annual Sweetwater Rattlesnake Roundup this March, a record 24,481 pounds of rattlesnakes (about 21,000 individuals), primarily Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnakes (Crotalus atrox), were slaughtered. That's over four times the all-time average and about five times the recent average, breaking from a trajectory of slow decline at the few remaining rattlesnake roundups. The Sweetwater Jaycees attribute this year’s record catch to heavy rains, an explanation which might hold some water, but another probable contributing factor is the possibility of an impending Texas Parks & Wildlife ban on using gasoline fumes to collect rattlesnakes, which was discussed this week at a meeting in Austin on May 25th, 2016. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission decided to begin developing language for a new rule either prohibiting or further regulating this practice in the state. The rule is still far from going into effect, and would include a two-year delay on the effective date. It won't be reviewed again until November 2016 (at which time, watch this space for a link to an opportunity for a public comment, if available). TPWD's Snake Harvest Working Group recommended earlier this year that Texas join 29 other states in banning this environmentally-harmful practice, which has been shown to kill numerous non-target species and has been compared with other unsportsmanlike methods of hunting, such as shooting at an out-of-range bird or fishing with dynamite. The state wildlife agency has been moving slowly but steadily to regulate rattlesnake collection in Texas because of the economic importance of rattlesnake roundups to towns like Sweetwater (e.g., over 25,000 people contributed over $8 million to the local economy in 2015, although the TPWD report found that the weather and the diversity of other events had stronger associations with profits than the number of rattlesnakes at an event).
|Locations of the remaining rattlesnake roundups,|
including non-lethal festivals.
From TPWD Report Reference Document (p. 22)
|Trajectory of profit (red, blue), number of snakes (purple), and|
weather conditions (green) at the Sweetwater Roundup over the last decade.
Chart prepared by Rob Denkhaus, TPWD Wildlife Diversity Advisory Committee
and presented in TPWD Report Reference Document (p. 64)
|Percentage of time radio-tracked Burmese Pythons spent|
fully concealed (black), partly visible (gray), and mostly visible (white).
In nineteen 30-minute searches of a 30 x 25 m enclosure containing
ten pythons, only two pythons were detected out of
190 possible detection opportunities.
From Dorcas & Willson 2013
Thanks to Ray Autry and Dale Burton from the Rise Against Rattlesnake Roundups Facebook group for pointing me to some resources about the 2016 Sweetwater Roundup.
Adams, C.E. and J.K. Thomas. 2008. Texas Rattlesnake Roundups. Texas A&M University Press, College Station, Texas <link>
Arena, P. C., C. Warwick, and D. Duvall. 1995. Rattlesnake Round-ups. Pages 313-324 in R. L. Knight and K. Gutzwiller, editors. Wildlife and Recreationists. Island Press, Washington, DC <link>
Campbell, J. A., D. R. Formanowicz Jr, and E. D. Brodie Jr. 1989. Potential impact of rattlesnake roundups on natural populations. Texas Journal of Science 41:301-317.
Dorcas, M. E., and J. D. Willson. 2013. Hidden giants: problems associated with studying secretive invasive pythons. Pages 367-385 in W. I. Lutterschmidt, editor. Reptiles in Research. Nova Biomedical, New York, New York <link>
Elliott, W. R. 2000. Conservation of the North American cave and karst biota. Pages 665-689 in H. Wilkens, D. Culver, and W. Humphreys, editors. Subterranean Ecosystems. Elsevier, Amsterdam.
Fitzgerald, L.A. and C.W. Painter. 2000. Rattlesnake commercialization: Long-term trends, issues, and implications for conservation. Wildlife Society Bulletin 28:235-253 <link>
Jackley, A. M. 1939. Rattlesnake Control and Conservation. South Dakota Conservation Digest 6:11.
Margres, M. J., J. J. McGivern, M. Seavy, K. P. Wray, J. Facente, and D. R. Rokyta. 2015. Contrasting modes and tempos of venom expression evolution in two snake species. Genetics 199:165-176 <link>
Reinert, H., and R. Rupert. 1999. Impacts of translocation on behavior and survival of Timber Rattlesnakes, Crotalus horridus. Journal of Herpetology 33:45-61 <link>
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. 2016. Snake Harvest Working Group Final Report <link> <references> <summary>
Life is Short, but Snakes are Long by Andrew M. Durso is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.