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Hundreds of bottles of booze with a bite seized in Palo Pinto

Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission agents seized 411 bottles of illegal hooch Thursday at Bayou Bob’s Brazos River Rattlesnake Ranch in Palo Pinto County.

But it wasn’t your typical variety of moonshine: the bottles of vodka also contained 10-inch rattlesnakes.

"In my 20 years with the TABC, I’ve never seen anything like it," Sgt. Charlie Cloud said Friday.

Bob Popplewell, the owner of Bayou Bob’s, did not return messages left on his voicemail at his snake farm near Santo in Palo Pinto County.

TABC officials said they plan to file charges next week for the sale of alcohol without a permit and possession of alcohol with the intent to sell. Penalties for those charges include up to a year in the county jail and fines up to $1,000 upon conviction.

Popplewell received widespread attention last year when Texas wildlife officials decided to tighten regulations for the collection of turtles. He is believed to be largest buyer of turtles in the state.

He testified before Texas Parks and Wildlife commissioners that he shipped 12,000 turtles out of state in 2006 and another 30,000 in 2005. Popplewell said that most of the turtles are shipped to Asia where they are considered a delicacy.

There was no evidence that Popplewell was shipping the snake-infused alcohol from his business but Cloud said the investigation is ongoing.

"I found it hard to believe he has 411 bottles going out of his store at any given time," Cloud said.

TABC officials said alcohol containing snakes or scorpions is popular in Asian cultures. An Internet search found operations selling Thai scorpion vodka, cobra whiskey, giant centipede whiskey, herbal gecko lizard wine and Mekong River eel wine.

"It’s very bizarre," Cloud said. "We learned that these are believed to contain aphrodisiac properties. We heard that some people believe having a venomous animal creates hallucinations."

TABC agents received a tip several weeks ago and sent an undercover agent to the rattlesnake ranch to purchase the vodka. It wasn’t on display.

"We had to go in and ask for it," Cloud said.