Petition urging a ban on gassing of snakes signed by Abilene Zoo employees

Some in Sweetwater say banning practice would hurt annual Rattlesnake Roundup, economy

Some Abilene zoo employees sign petition urging end to rattlesnake gassing

ABILENE, Texas - A petition has surfaced urging parks and wildlife to ban the gassing of rattlesnakes.

It's signed by 58 biologists, zoologists and ecologists, including nine former or current employees at the Abilene Zoo.

Some in Sweetwater have said a ban would negatively impact its annual rattlesnake roundup and hurt the Sweetwater economy.

The petition cites a number of studies that outline possible ecological effects of gassing snakes. 

"They're not out to get you. People make them seem like, ‘Oh they're such a threat.' They're not. People are the threat," said Sarah Strom-Kieschnick, who signed the petition just over a year ago to stop the use of gassing as a means for collecting rattlesnakes.

Texas Parks and Wildlife is considering a proposal to ban the use of gassing to collect rattlesnakes.

"I feel that if you're doing that in those dens it's homes for other animals and wildlife, so for the Texas Parks and Wildlife to still allow that to happen, that's crazy. To allow something like that to still be so barbaric –it's 2014, we need to change the way of collecting animals," Kieschnick said.

Kieschnick used to work at the Abilene Zoo. Now she works at For the Love of Nature, a nonprofit that educates the public about wildlife issues. The eight other Abilene signers either used to or currently work at the zoo.

"When you work for the zoo or the city you know there's not too much you can say because you work for the government and so this being our side nonprofit that's also why we created it so we could be more voicesterous about our so-called opinion," Kieschnick said.

The city of Abilene released a statement about the petition that said: "By signing this petition, these individuals are not representing the city of Abilene nor has the city taken a position on this matter."

KTXS has not been able to contact any of the current zoo employees who signed the petition for their comment.

"We're serious and really we really do care about animals and the environment and everything that's living in those Dens – and what's being affected," Kieschnick said.

If the proposal is passed, Texas would become the 30th state to ban the practice of gassing to some extent. 

Texas Parks and Wildlife will host a public hearing in Sweetwater at 10 a.m. Friday at Texas State Technical College. You can also send them your comment online.

A copy of the petition is noted below. 

To the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 

Collectors of rattlesnakes in Texas are known to employ the use of gasoline, also referred to as gassing when harvesting Western diamond-back rattlesnakes (Crotalus atrox). This is generally agreed upon by ecologists and biologists alike to be detrimental to the overall health of rattlesnakes as well as several other species of reptile, bird and mammal (ASIH, 2006). It is also considered harmful to the environment in general as it can kill vegetation and disrupts functioning ecosystems (Warwick et al, 1991). Furthermore, it could be argued that this use of gasoline has the potential to contaminate as defined by Texas Water Code Title 2, Subtitle E, Chapter 36, Subchapter A8D (Sec. 36.001. Definitions): "(D) pollution or harmful alteration of groundwater in a groundwater reservoir by saltwater or by other deleterious matter admitted from another stratum or from the surface of the ground" (Texas Const., Water Code Chap. 36).

Many animals are known to share rattlesnake burrows, some of which are protected by the State of Texas as well as the Federal Government.

The species that are potentially affected include but are not limited to ornate box turtles (Terrapene ornata ornata), gophers (Family Geomyidae), various non-venomous snakes, Texas tortoises (Gopherus berlandieri), spiny lizards (genus Sceloporus), collared lizards (genus Crotaphytus), tree lizards (Urosaurus ornatus), earless lizards (Holbrooki & Cophosaurus), kangaroo rats (genus Dipodomys), ringtails (Bassariscus astutus), bobcats (Lynx rufus ), kit foxes (Vulpes macroti ), Palo Duro deermice (Peromyscus truei comanche ), ocelots (Leopardus pardalis), bumble bees (genus Bombus) and burrowing owls (Athene cunicularia). 

General disturbance and the use of gasoline are known to drive them from their habitat (Goode et al, 2004). Gasoline also has potentially lethal effects on all animals that come into contact with it (Speake and Mount, 1973). Yet in Texas the spraying of gasoline in the harvest of rattlesnakes is still allowed. For the good of the environment this antiquated process has to stop.

This is a petition of appeal to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department by scientific authority to put a stop to the use of gassing as a means of collecting rattlesnakes. Below are the names of biologists, zoologists, ecologists, chemists and other professional organismal scientists that agree that Texas needs to reform its laws regarding wild game and end the legal use of gasoline as means of snake collection.


Good, M. J., Swann, D. E., & Schwalbe, C. R. (2004). Effects of Destructive Collecting Practices on Reptiles: a Field Experiment. Journal of Wildlife Management, 68(2). 

Howard, Walter E. (1994). Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management: Control of Rattlesnakes. Cornell University; Clemson University; University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Utah State University.


J. Guy W. Johnson (1913). The Toxic Effects of Gasoline Fumes. Can Med Assoc J. 1913 February; 3(2): 118–124.

PMCID: PMC1579644 

Means, Bruce (2008). Effects of Rattlesnake Roundups on the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus). Herpetological Conservation and Biology 4(2):132-141. 

Mushinsky, R., Henry, and Savitzky, H. Alan (2006). Position of American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists Concerning Rattlesnake Conservation and Roundups. ASIH.org.  

Patrick, Ruth; Ford, Emily and Quarles, John (1983). Groundwater Contamination in the United States (2nd ed.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Parkway, Philadelphia. University of Pennsylvania Press.

 Speake, D. W., and R. H. Mount. 1973. Some possible ecological effects of "Rattlesnake Roundups" in the southeastern Coastal Plain. Proc. 27th Ann. Conf. S. E. Assoc. Game Fish Comm. 1973:267-277. 

Texas Water Code Title 2, Subtitle E, Chapter 36, Subchapter A8D (Sec. 36.001. Definitions). Texas Register Vol. 35 No. 7. (Feb. 12, 2010), 961-1384. 

The Southwestern Center for Herpetological Research (2010). Southwestern Center for Herpetological Research:

Position Paper Regarding the Practice of Gassing Snake Dens as Permissible Means of Take in Texas.. 

Warwick, C., Steedman, C., and Holford, T. (1991). Rattlesnake collection drives—their implications for species and environmental conservation. Oryx, 25(01), 39-44.

Names of Petitioners

Matt Goode


Research Scientist

Wildlife Conservation and


School of Natural Resources &


City and State 

Tucson, AZ 85721


Jared L Watts 

Wildlife Biologist. Wildlife Response

Inc Board of Directors Virginians

Interested IN protecting Every Reptile.

Board of Directors SAVES VP and Board of Directors. Private Keepers Represenative For Virginias Dangerous Animal Initiative Virginia, 23139


Sara E. Viernum 

Wildlife Biologist and Herpetologist 

San Antonio, TX


Aimee Kenoyer 

Research Technician III / Lab Manager 

Seattle, WA


Dr. Kerry Kriger 

Founder, Executive Director, and

Ecologist at Save The Frogs! 

Santa Cruz, CA


Alan D. Cameron 

Volunteer, North Carolina Wildlife

Resources Commission 

Flat Rock, NC 

Jeffery N. Holmes 

Associate Executive Director at The

Amphibian and Reptile Conservancy 

Nashville, TN


Amanda Nelson 

NSF IGERT fellow 

Carbondale, IL


Josef C. Uyeda, PhD 

Postdoctoral Fellow, iBEST,

University of Idaho 

Moscow, Idaho


Raeth J. Morgan 

Biological Science Technician 

Cambridge, MD


Valorie Titus 

PhD Candidate, Contract Scientist 

Bozeman, MT

Yekaterina S. Pavlova


Mathematical Biology PhD Candidate,

UC Irvine 

Irvine, CA


Kreg D. Ellzey 


Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Adam Green 

Ph.D. Candidate, Fish, Wildlife, and

Conservation Biology 

Thornton, CO


Doug Hotle 

Curator of Herpetology 

Albuquerque BioPark 

Albuquerque, NM


Jennifer Oakley 

Wildlife Biologist 

San Antonio, TX


Lori Williams 

Mountain Wildlife Diversity Biologist 

Asheville, North Carolina


Rebecca D. Ijames 

Staff Biologist 

Central City, KY


Sara Dawn Plesuk 

Supervisor – Reptiles & Amphibians 

Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo &


Omaha, NE


Michael D. Barton 

Weekend Supervisor, Tualatin Hills

Nature Park Interpretive Center 

Beaverton, OR


Samson W. Smith, MS,

Evolutionary Biology 

College Biology Instructor 

Portland, OR


Robert Dafoe 

Marine Ecologist 

Chattanooga, TN


Christal Florin 

Park Ranger 

Portland, OR


Bernice Moser 

Physical and Earth Sciences Scientific

Lab Technician 

Jacksonville, AL


T. Travis Brown 

Wildlife Biologist 

Nabb, Indiana


Orry Martin 

Biology Teacher/Herpetologist 

Conroe, TX


Lisa Powers 

Biologist – Herpetologist 

Bon Aqua, TN


Christopher Law 

Director, Central Florida Zoological


Zephyrhills, FL


Nonie Maines 

Wildlife Educator Naturalist 

Fort Walton Beach, Florida


Anissa Delecki 

Herpetology/Ecotoxicology/Endocrinology PhD Candidate and Teaching

Assistant at Oklahoma State University 

Stillwater, OK


Scott Robinson 

Owner of Ecto Critterz and iFrog 

Queen Creek, AZ


Brandon L. Owens 


San Antonio, TX


Justin Oguni 

Doctor of Veterinary Medicine 

Marietta, GA


Kristen Leigh Wiley 

Curator of the Kentucky Reptile Zoo 

Kentucky Reptile Zoo, KY


James R. Harrison 

Director of the Kentucky Reptile Zoo 

Kentucky Reptile Zoo, KY


Andrew Webb 

Business executive Wildlife


Mornington,Victoria, Australia


Christopher E. Smith,

M.Sc., A.W.B. 

Nongame Wildlife Biologist 

Wildlife Research & Consulting

Services, LLC 

Saint Paul, MN


 Melissa Amarello 

Master of Science in Biology, Arizona

State UniversityBachelor of Science in Natural Resources,

University of Arizona

Willcox, Arizona 

Gordon Schuett, Ph.D. 

Adjunct Professor of Biology, Georgia State 


Atlanta, GA


Kenneth A. Harkewicz,


Doctor of Veterinary Medicine

Berkeley Dog & Cat Hospital,

Berkeley, CA


President 2011-2012 The Association

of Reptilian and Amphibian

Veterinarians (ARAV) 

Berkeley, CA 


Robert Sprackland,

Ph.D. Herpetologist and Director of the

Virtual Museum of Natural History 

Lorton, Virginia


Garrett Craft 

Graduate Teaching Assistant 

University of South Florida (BSc,

currently PhD student) 

Tampa, FL 

Shawn Heflick, MS


Conservation Biologist/Herpetologist National Geographic WILD Host 

Palm Bay, FL  

Sarah Strom-Kieschnick 

CEO /Wildlife Educator for the

nonprofit "For the Love of Nature" 

And TPWD Master Naturalist @ the

BigCountry MN chapter 

Abilene, TX


Jeremy Wilson 

Herpetologist and Co-founder for the

nonprofit "For the Love of Nature" ,

Also TPWD Permit holder #EDU-

0911-326 under licensed educator 

Abilene, TX


Tony Baez 

Supervisor of Herpetology for the

AZA accredited Abilene Zoo/owner

and TPWD licensed educator for

"Wild Encounters" permit # Zoo-0411- 107 

Abilene, TX


Matthew Strong 

Reptile Keeper, Abilene Zoo 

Abilene, TX


Timothy Singser 

Curator, Abilene Zoo 

Abilene, TX


Ryan King 

Bird Supervisor, Abilene Zoo 

Abilene, TX


Joy Harsh

Curator, Abilene Zoo 

Abilene, TX


Ariana Keller 

Mammal Keeper, Abilene Zoo 

Abilene, TX


Katherine Richter 

Mammal Keeper, Abilene Zoo 

Abilene, TX


Elizabeth Alice Mule 


Sugar Land, TX 

Keith Gisser 

Presenting Herpetologist/Herps Alive!


Cleveland Hts., OH


Benjamin Allen


Graduate Teaching Assistant


University of Texas at Arlington


Arlington Texas


Wolfgang Wüster


Senior Lecturer, School of Biological

Sciences, Bangor University


Bangor, Gwynedd, United



Charles E. Button


Associate Professor & Graduate Advisor –

Geography Department

Faculty Chair – President's Advisory

Council for Environmental Sustainability

Founder & Faculty Chair – CCSU Global

Environmental Sustainability Action


Governor's Climate Change Leadership

Award Recipient


Central Connecticut State University,

New Britain, Connecticut









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