Rattlesnakes without a bell? | Community | baycitytribune.com
Rattlesnakes without a bell?
Whigham, Georgia has an annual rattlesnake roundup but this year will be the last rattlesnake roundup to take place in Georgia.
Once a popular annual event in the Midwest and southern United States since the 1930s, rattlesnakes are now thankfully on the verge of becoming obsolete as public outcry and dwindling rattlesnake populations have brought it attention. that it deserves. Today, many of these events have eliminated the “gathering” and turned to more educational and humanitarian festivals without mass slaughter. Texas, however, continues the tradition with Sweetwater, Texas, which hosts the largest gathering of rattlesnakes in the world. Reported in the San Antonio Express-News, the 2018 event bagged “8,500 pounds of rattlesnakes; Last year’s event brought in a record 24,626 pounds of snakes.
I have learned that “gassing” is commonly used by hunters in Texas to remove rattlesnakes from burrows; Texas is one of the last states where this method of hunting is still legal. The practice involves pouring gasoline, ammonia, or other poisonous substances into the burrows so that stunned snakes emerge and can be caught more easily – now this requires real hunting skill! And around 20 endangered species and other creatures living in Texas burrows are suffering from this indiscriminate practice. At least twenty-nine states have banned its practice. Since 2014, petitions have been submitted to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to ban the gassing, but to my knowledge, although various state task forces have met to assess the ban, no action has yet been taken. and it remains legal here.
What fascinates me is that we may be seeing the evolutionary process taking place on the rattles of some populations – the lack of natural predators on the ground or intense harvesting pressure could result in the loss of rattles. Living on Isla Santa Catalina in the Gulf of California is a very rare and aptly named Santa Catalina rattlesnake. It is the only rattlesnake in the world without rattles. Current scientific evidence supports that, because this species has lived for millennia without ground predators where the need for this effective warning system is not necessary, the species has lost its rattle.
Further north, in the Black Hills of South Dakota, home to the Prairie Rattlesnake, in recent years, naturalists have noticed more frequent occurrences of these rattleless snakes – only a curly Q-shaped pigtail to the l end where a rattle should be. It is a genetic defect that is transmitted to the offspring of individuals who survive and reproduce; those that cannot click are not as easily detected by hunters and may have a higher survival rate than those that alert potential predators – here I am! Owner of a licensed rattlesnake removal service for the Arizona Department of Game and Fisheries, Steve Reaves, reported in the news that “fewer and fewer rattlesnakes are snapping” and “killing those who slam , we have created a rattlesnake that does not make noise ”. I tend to click so much ”. Although the evidence is growing, to my knowledge there is no scientific study yet to support the theory. As author of the Arizona article, Corey Rangel comments, “… the only thing worse than hearing a rattlesnake nearby is not hearing it at all.”
While doing a shorebird survey at Bryan Beach in October, our former GCBO intern, Amelia Grider, and I were meandering through wrack (washed up driftwood and algae debris) along of the beach-dune interface. We were surprised when the driftwood Amelia was walking through started to move and we quickly realized it was a 4ft Diamondback Rattlesnake! The snake casually pulled away from us and ended up in a back thicket of driftwood. The snake showed no aggression, although I followed photos.
There are 36 species of rattlesnakes and they are all native to the Americas, Texas and Arizona hosting the greatest number. Most are considered non-aggressive and will warn you if you get too close – they don’t want to waste their venom on something they can’t eat. So if you come across any of these beautiful creatures, hopefully you feel lucky for the sighting and both of you walk away in peace – in opposite directions.
Robin Bjork is an Avian Conservation Biologist at the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory. GCBO is a non-profit organization dedicated to saving birds and their habitats across the Gulf Coast and beyond in their wintering grounds in Central and South America.