Rattlesnake roundups are tradition in parts of West Texas and South Texas, but the practice of “gassing,” forcing the snakes from their dens by pouring noxious or toxic substances inside, would be banned under a proposed amendment to the Parks and Wildlife Code.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is proposing the amendment, which would make it illegal to use gasoline and other substances to disturb or collect nongame wildlife, as well as prohibit the possession of nongame wildlife collected using these substances.
However, those engaged in structural or agricultural pest control activities would be exempted from the rule.
If the amendment is approved by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, Texas would become the 30th state in which the practice is partially or completely prohibited. Others that have laws on the books include Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma.
Six public meetings have been set in January to gauge public interest and comment. They are:
- Jan. 7, Fort Worth: 7p.m. at Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge, 9601 Fossil Ridge Road
- Jan. 8, Houston: 7p.m. at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Regional State Parks Office, 14200 Garrett Road
- Jan. 13, San Antonio: 7 p.m. at Lion’s Field Adult and Senior Citizen Center, 2809 Broadway
- Jan. 17, Sweetwater: 10 a.m. at The Center, Texas State Technical College, 300 Homer K. Taylor Drive
- Jan. 23, Austin: 9 a.m. at Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Meeting, 4200 Smith School Road
Comments also may be made online or submitted to Andy Gluesenkamp, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin, Texas 78744; 512-389-8722; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Research supports the conclusion that the use of noxious substances to collect or harass nongame wildlife negatively affects not only those animals that are being pursued, but other animals that co-inhabit or subsequently use a treated refuge, according to a news release. For instance, researchers investigating the effects of one-time “gassing” on gopher tortoise burrows (under variable exposure intensities and durations) demonstrated that the practice resulted in significant mortality in four species of snake and one species of mammal. Laboratory experiments conducted on seven species of snakes, lizards and toads in 1989 determined that a 30-minute vapor exposure produced a “dramatic and obvious” effect on the test subjects and resulted in a range of outcomes from short-term impairment to death. Other studies have shown a correlation between exposure to petroleum products and mortality in various species.
In addition, use of noxious chemicals to flush or capture wildlife is a demonstrable threat to species that use karst environments as habitat, which is of particular importance in Texas, according to the release. Karst environments are typically created by the long-term chemical action of water on calcareous rocks such as limestone, which creates sinkholes, caverns, and other features that then become habitat for highly specialized aquatic and terrestrial organisms. Many of these species are rare and several are considered threatened or endangered. Karst ecosystems and the species they host, by their nature, are fragile and sensitive to pollutants.
In addition to prohibition on the use of gasoline, or any other stupefying, noxious or toxic chemical or substance to take, harry, flush, or dislodge nongame wildlife, the proposed amendment would prohibit any person from knowingly possessing wildlife that was captured as a result of the use of those substances. The department’s reasoning is that if a specimen of nongame wildlife was collected by use of an unlawful method, no person who knows that the specimen was unlawfully collected should be permitted to possess it, according to the release.
The proposed amendment also would create an exception for pesticides being used in accordance with labeling instructions by persons licensed under certain provisions of the Occupations Code or the Agriculture Code. The department has determined that the rules should not apply to persons licensed to conduct structural or agricultural pest control activities. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission is expected to take action on the proposed amendment at its Jan. 23 meeting.