AP Correction: In a story Jan. 7 about the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's proposed ban on using gasoline fumes to force rattlesnakes from their dens, The Associated Press, relying on information from the agency, erroneously reported that the agency's commission would consider the proposal at its March meeting. The meeting is Jan. 23.
Using gasoline fumes to force rattlesnakes from their dens will be banned if a state wildlife proposal is implemented.
Officials with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said the pumping of fumes to force out rattlers also threatens 20 species of endangered animals that live underground.
The department will hold six public hearings on the proposal in January in cities across the state, including Sweetwater, where rattlers are rounded up annually in a charity event attended by tens of thousands, according to the Austin American-Statesman (http://bit.ly/1gdPITC).
Sweetwater Jaycee member David Sager told the newspaper that a ban would kill the "World's Largest Rattlesnake Roundup," which brings millions in economic benefits to the town each March.
But Tim Cole, the owner of a business called Austin Reptile Service, called the practice "animal cruelty."
John Davis, the department's wildlife program diversity director, said the gassing of snake dens isn't common. A survey sent to 868 Texans who have permits to collect "nongame" species in the state yielded 97 responses and of those only six said they used gas fumes.
Gassing, when done properly, sends a fine mist of gasoline into snake dens, which makes it hard for the reptiles to breathe and prompts them to slither outside.
Jackie Bibby, the president of the Heart of Texas Snakehandlers, said he estimated that about 80 percent of snake hunters in Texas still gas snakes.
Twenty-nine states, including Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma, already partially or completely prohibit gassing, department spokesman Mike Cox said.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission needs to approve the proposal for it to become law. It will consider the issue at its Jan. 23 meeting, Cox said.
Comments about the proposal may also be made online at www.tpwd.state.tx.us/business/feedback/public--comment.