Tens of thousands of visitors from around the world flock to Sweetwater, Texas every year. They come for the annual Sweetwater Rattlesnake Roundup, where members of organizations like the Sweetwater Jaycees collect and kill thousands of rattlesnakes.
Sweetwater Jaycees member Rob McCann says the tradition goes way back.
“The first rattlesnake roundup was held because, basically the police department in Sweetwater back then was being overwhelmed by nuisance calls for rattlesnakes in the city limits.”
In order to get rattlesnakes out of their holes, McCann and fellow hunter Cody Cox will pour gasoline into their burrows in order to ‘gas’ them out. The practice of gassing rattlesnake dens is banned in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and New Mexico and is at the center of the on-going debate between animal rights activists and wranglers.
“People are saying that we’re gassing these snakes and we’re just pouring gallons and gallons of gas into a hole, and thats not what we’re doing at all,” Cox says. “What we’re doing is we’re using the fumes from the gas to drive the snakes out.”
Repeated proposals to ban gassing in Texas could drop the number of rattlesnakes caught and cost towns like Sweetwater millions in lost profits.