Proposed state policy could threaten Sweetwater Rattlesnake Roundup's future

ABILENE, Texas - A new policy proposal from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is causing quite a stir in Nolan County, particularly those involved with the famous Sweetwater Rattlesnake Roundup.

The state says using gasoline, ammonia, or other substances to drive wildlife out has unintended consequences to the environment and other forms of wildlife. If approved, Texas would become the 30th state in which the practice is banned, partially or completely.

Texas parks and wildlife has proposed a new rule making it illegal to "gas" snakes out of their habitats, a practice used each and every year to round up the thousands of snakes that have made the Sweetwater Rattlesnake RoundUp, an event that garners international attention and millions of dollars.

30 year Jaycee member and snake hunter, Dennis Cumbie along with many others are not happy. 

"It will threaten us if this happens. It will become difficult for the hunters to catch the snakes and if they can't catch the snakes there is no round up," said Cumbie.

No Rattlesnake Roundup equals a big loss in more ways than one for many cities in Nolan and surrounding counties.

We checked with Sweetwater city officials and they say on the low end the roundup brings in $4.7 million from hotels, restaurants and shopping as well as more than $100,000 for about ten charities.

But it's not all about the money.

"We promote a lot of safety and handling demos. We go to schools and do webcasts through hundreds of schools throughout the state. Teaching them safety about rattlesnakes and how to avoid getting bitten by those snakes, so it's all part of the round up and our heritage," said Cumbie.

"There are no studies directly on the anything that says the gas is actually hurting anything in this part of the country. This has been going on over 50 years here and there's no evidence that anything has been damaged. They're lab studies or opinionated studies," Cumbie added.

State Representative Susan King agrees with him.

"They're going too fast, there is some process but not enough. The science is not absolute," said King. 

We asked her if she was going to fight for this? Her response:

"Yes, I will.  I support my district, I support Sweetwater and Nolan County. I think it's important to always have a fair process. Maybe you need a permit for gassing. Maybe you need to be sure that only certain strength is being given. It's kind of like pepper spray: does it hurt people and stop people? Yes, it does. But does it damage their eyes long term? I don't think so," said King.

We wanted to know why Parks and Wildlife wants the policy, so we gave them a call. They told us their decision is based on sound science from the biologists they work with. A copy of this information can be found under "related", on this webpage.

To make a comment on the proposed policy CLICK HERE to go to the Texas Parks and Wildlife website. CLICK HERE to read the full press release.

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