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Parks and Wildlife hearing on gassing snakes gets heated in Sweetwater

Sweetwater hearing on snake gassing

SWEETWATER, Texas - More than 200 people showed up at a public hearing in Sweetwater Friday to voice their concerns about a Texas Parks and Wildlife proposal to ban gassing to collect rattlesnakes.

Snake hunters and organizers of the World's Largest Rattlesnake Roundup are worried about that.

"If they ban the gassing it's going to deter the hunters from hunting and if the hunters aren't hunting, then we will have no snakes and there will be no roundup," said Sweetwater Jaycee Dennis Cumbie.

Friday was the final public hearing around the state before the issue goes to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commissioners Thursday.

Parks and Wildlife Diversity Program Director John Davis said the ban is not about the rattlesnakes.

"The rattlesnakes are not the issue. We are not concerned about the collection of rattlesnakes. This is about the impact to nontarget species, rare and endangered karst invertebrates," said Davis. 

"Most of the animals that they're even listing on that list are not in this area where most of the snakes are and they're not in the habitat with those snakes," Cumbie disagreed.

To many people in Sweetwater, rattlers are their biggest concern and they don't feel studies behind the proposal are valid.

"I don't think they had a lot of the facts. They were naming studies that were done in the 30s and 40s. Most of the lab studies are not studies in this area. And they aren't studies on Western diamondback rattlesnakes," said Cumbie.

Davis said older studies still carry considerable weight.

"It's a well-established fact that gas vapor is toxic to invertebrates. I don't believe that's changed," said Davis.

Commissioners will provide some time for public comment Thursday at the final hearing in Austin. After that they will vote on whether to make the ban on gassing a rule. If passed, it would go into effect September 1.

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