While supporters of Sweetwater’s “rattlesnake roundup” want you to believe that hunters using gas to capture snakes perform some kind of public service, flooding essential wildlife habitats with toxic fumes is a cruel and outdated practice that should be banned. (See: Proposal to ban ‘gassing’ of rattlesnakes in Texas ignites backlash in Sweetwater,” Saturday)
“Gassing” is already banned in dozens of states, including all the states bordering Texas, for good reason: underground dens provide important shelter for hundreds of species, including foxes, lizards, birds and invertebrates. In Texas, 20 endangered animals live underground and could be harmed by gassing.
The western diamondback rattlesnake that hunters target poses little public safety risk. Although venomous, more people are killed every year by lightning strikes and bee stings. Nearly all diamondback bites happen when people attempt to capture or kill the snakes. Roundups probably increase the risk of snake bites by encouraging people to handle rattlesnakes.
Sweetwater can raise money for charity without killing snakes. In Georgia and Alabama, rattlesnake roundups have been replaced with wildlife festivals where snakes and other wildlife are celebrated, not killed.