Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Rattlesnake roundup organizers deny snakes will be let loose after record haul

‘There’s always a market for snakes … There will be nothing left over’
Record 24,262lb of snakes collected – four times the typical haul

Thursday 24 March 2016 17.42 GMTLast modified on Thursday 24 March 201620.50 GMT

Organizers of the world’s largest rattlesnake “roundup” have downplayed concerns that thousands of snakes will be let loose in Texas after a record haul meant that hunters couldn’t find buyers for all of their legless reptiles.

The 58th annual roundup event, held in the small west Texas town of Sweetwater, hauled in a record 24,262lb of snakes, primarily western diamondback rattlesnakes – roughly four times the typical haul. Each snake weighs about 1lb and can be sold for around $10 for meat or to be made into clothing and accessories.

The enormous catch, aided by ideal rattlesnake wrangling conditions, has led to concerns that hunters will simply let snakes go because they couldn’t find buyers at the Sweetwater event. But organizers have denied there will be thousands of dumped snakes.

“There’s always a market for snakes,” said Rob McCann, spokesman for the event. “There will be nothing left over, they will be processed for meat or made into wallets.

“It was a phenomenal year, but a lot of hard work. There was a perfect storm of conditions – a lot of late-season moisture, which meant the rodent population exploded. The snakes didn’t need to den very deep for us to get them.”

The event has proved controversial among animal welfare groups and herpetologists, who have criticized the conditions the snakes are kept in and the practice of gassing them out of their nests using gasoline.

Once captured, the snakes are taken to the four-day event, where they are displayed in giant snake pits, butchered for cooking demonstrations and sold to buyers. There are also various competitions – this year, the longest snake prize was given to a serpent 75.5in long.

Proponents of the roundup claim that it brings great economic benefits to Sweetwater and helps protect people from bites by controlling rattlesnake numbers.

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